As my cherished fellow Charioteers will know Germany’s federal election was held some two months ago. It resulted in the most unstable and unpredictable Bundestag in the 70-some-year history of the Federal Republic. Perhaps my cheeky vote for Howling Laud Hope and the Official Monster Raving Loony Party wasn’t the most absurd thing to come out of that election.
The two parties that have dominated German politics since the end of the Second World War — the CDU/CSU and SPD received their worst results. There was really only one viable coalition — a third “grand coalition”. Yet… In a rare moment of political clarity, Martin Schulz urged against that. Merkel has developed the reputation of political black widow. Her two coalition partners: the SPD and FDP both suffered severe reductions in their support. Christian Lindner, the FDP leader who has led his party out of the political wilderness, is loath to enter government for the sake of entering government. Realising that his party would have no real influence but would have to accept a great degree of blame that would come out of a “Jamaica Coalition” — CDU/CSU-FDP-Green — he chose to walk away. “It’s better not to be in government at all than to govern poorly” was his view.
With snap elections looming — something that nobody wants — pressure is growing on the SPD to back down and accept a third grand coalition for the sake of political stability in Germany. Schulz might not like the idea, but much of his party don’t like the idea of his being leader and are distinctly underwhelmed by his “performance” so far. Sigmar Gabriel, the former SPD leader and Frank-Walter Steinmeir, the President of the Federal Republic — big beasts both — are increasingly open in their goading for a continuation of the former Bundestag arrangement. There is a real risk that the SPD would fare worse yet in any new election.
In macro-political terms, this means that Germany might well have a zombie grand coalition. Even if they hold a safe majority of seats, they would be dying parties with an emboldened opposition on the right and left. Merkel has little political capital left, the SPD might not even have a future. As the most recent Dutch election showed, a party that once dominated politics for decades can be all but wiped out. Any sort of European “reform” would be hard to effect, if not impossible.
As for what this holds in store for our beloved sceptred isle… Germany is trying to poach jobs and industry from Britain. German business lobbies are quietly pressuring the government to give way and allow for a decent trading relationship to be negotiated. Germany is one of the biggest losers in the spat with Russia as Russia had become one of Germany’s largest export markets. Losing ready access to the United Kingdom — Germany’s most important trading partner — would be a bigger blow yet. For now, Britain will be left to blow in the wind as Germany attempts to make itself relevant in finance, insurance and start-ups. Never mind that Germany doesn’t have the infrastructure of London or Paris or even a proper legal system.