Life After Covid – We Look to Europe for Inspiration
Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would start a blog grappling with Bonnie Tyler’s immortal words from the 80s hit song Holding Out For A Hero;
‘’ Late at night I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need
I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
gotta be strong and gotta be fast
And gotta be fresh from the fight’’
As we step out of the world of Covid, bleary-eyed and take stock of where we are globally, domestically and the future of Europe, its time to ask some questions as to where we are going.
Here at home, politics is very tweedled-dum, tweedled-dee, where senior politicians battle each other dispensing recommendations as to how best for employers to return to work. In the UK, the Tories still rule the waves. Last week, the French President Macron decided to pay us a visit and his own party will be under pressure later this year with the French elections taking place in April 2022. The French President’s approval ratings continue to bob and weave, with EU Brexit brinkman Michel Barnier is tipped to be the Les Republicans candidate for President.
Something that has captured our imagination is the German elections and the end of the Merkel era. The bedrock of European politics for the past fifty years has been the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Angela Merkel has been the bedrock of that bedrock.
As Merkel now leaves the stage after 16 years in office, the CDU is not just facing being booted out of power but is also facing the worst election result in its history.
The CDU, in power for 16 years, opted to replace Merkel with the establishment figure Armin Laschet as their nominee for Chancellor. In doing so, they pushed aside the far more popular and conservative grassroots favourite Markus Soder.
The decision has backfired badly. Local party members and supporters are not motivated to campaign for Laschet and the candidate himself is on a calamitous merry-go-round of gaffes, such as laughing on camera when visiting flood affected regions, getting a CDU MP’s name wrong, eating ice cream and asking Elon Musk about hydrogen technology.
The Green Party Leader, Annalena Baerbock, has also had a rough time of it with allegations of plagiarism and embellishing her CV.
That leaves the only as yet unblemished candidate, centre-left SPD leader and current Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, who is attempting to be seen as the natural heir to Angela Merkel. Like Merkel, he is rather humourless, serious, pragmatic and has been steadily steering the German finances through the pandemic.
Despite being nicknamed the ‘Scholz-o-mat’ for his robotic delivery, is campaign message of ‘respect’ is seeping through. The SDP is using the theme of respect to underline its key promises, namely a €12 per hour minimum wage, more affordable housing and stable pensions.
Laschet being caught laughing during serious flooding plays right into the SDP’s hands, as does the distinct lack of a clear policy direction in the wake of Merkel’s exit.
It has all been leading up to a strong lead in the polls for the SPD and eyes are now turning to the potential coalition partners, likely to be the Green Party.
The CDU’s rear-guard action is being led by Markus Soder, leader of its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, who has been blitzing media in the past few days and re-emphasising conservative values.