I shouldn’t really be shocked, much less horrified. The world has provided so many surprises recently that one really ought to be immune by now. But then… Something happens that proves that horror is still possible.
For the past few years my fellow Charioteers and I have had many chuckles at the disgraced former PM of Luxembourg’s expense. It was just too easy poking fun at an ageing drunk with delusions of grandeur. To his credit, Drunky Junky does possess a keen sense of humour. His alcohol-addled mind was still sharp enough to grasp that his tenure as president of the EU Commission was causing more harm than good. It is more likely than not that a number of European heads of state were dropping subtle hints that they’d not be offended if he wished to enjoy a quiet retirement at the end of his term after decades of such devoted public service.
The eternal optimist, I had assumed that some harmless non-entity like Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Enda Kenny or Mark Rutte would be selected to take his place. All three are suitably dull, underwhelming and from small countries. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, a singularly unremarkable ex-Danish PM is most famous for being married to a Kinnock and having expensive tastes — she isn’t referred to as Gucci Helle for shopping at Primark. Enda Kenny is most famous for being a Taoseach so uninspiring that his only real legacy is the occasional passive-aggressive Gaelic-language response to the opposition. Mark Rutte has been a competent, steady Dutch PM who is nearing the end of his political career. He gets on well with virtually everyone and poses no threat to anyone.
So who was the choice? Ursula von der Leyen, or, as my mother calls her, flinten Uschi. She has been a fixture in German cabinets since 2005. She was originally minister for families. As mother of 7, she was obviously well-qualified in that respect. However, she later became minister of defence. She was not so well-qualified and she did nothing to distinguish herself, good or bad. In typical eurofashion, this promotion was a dignified exit from domestic political life. As a senior cabinet member, she by all rights should have been a serious contender to lead the CDU. She wasn’t. That honour went to Annegred Kramp-Karrenbauer. With both the CDU/CSU and especially the SPD struggling in the polls, her future was uncertain.
Her selection shows that the EU has forgotten nothing and that it is not learnt anything. She is just as zealous in her eurofanaticism as Drunky Junky. Unlike Drunky Junky, she has no sense of humour, is far more disciplined and is too dreary to be of any comical value. I can but hope that we’ll be out of the EU before she takes power.