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December 08, 2016

Schröder tells SPD to dump Merkel

Few German leaders had such a good political instinct as Gerhard Schröder, who in his time in government steadily refused to make a coalition with the Left Party - the successor of the former East German communists. Now he tells his party they should seriously consider precisely this - and we think they will. Gregor Peter Schmitz of Wirtschaftswoche has the story. Schröder told him that the SPD can beat Merkel. They have to enter the campaign with the claim that they want to lead the country. And he said it was right for the SPD to keep open all power options, including that of a coalition with the Left Party and the Greens for as long as they can agree on joint policies. 

The arithmetic does not, at present, add up for what the Germans call a "red-red-green" coalition, but Schröder notes that the CDU is not doing all that well either, and it has much more to lose from the AfD than the SPD.

Schröder, and pretty much everyone else to the left of the CDU, criticised yesterday's decision by the CDU party congress to favour the abolition of dual citizenship rules for young immigrants. Merkel and the SPD had agreed a difficult reform to ease the possibility of dual citizenship, which the CDU now wants to see reversed. Merkel said she regretted the vote by her Party's congress, and said she would not implement in the current parliament's term, nor would she use it in the election campaign. She does not want to give the SPD a bullet to kill her politically. Schröder said the decision annulled her 2015 open-door policy for refugees. FAZ, meanwhile, reported that the SPD is furious about this vote, which was brought by the CDU’s youth organisation, and surprising approved by the Congress. This is the kind of stuff to watch out for. The coalition could break down over such a thing. 

Nico Fried writes in Süddeutsche that the CDU has taken its revenge on Merkel. This is a gradual process of alienation, not strong enough to destroy Merkel, but strong enough to weaken her. She is now being treated in the same way she has treated others - through a process of gradual erosion. Fried makes the substantive point that the debate within the CDU is not about refugees but foreigners in general. The conservatives want to emphasise national values, outlaw the burka, and write into the constitution that German is the only official language of Germany. The CDU no longer follows Merkel’s openness. The party wants to close up, he writes.

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December 08, 2016

Another third man?

A new candidate is about to enter the race for the left primaries: Vincent Peillon. Philosopher by training, an education minister under François Hollande who introduced the 5 day week into the French school system (much to the chagrin of local politicians), and who then lead the Socialists into the European elections 2014. He has the credentials that those opposing Manuel Valls are looking for: together with Arnaud Montebourg he used to fight against the free-market wing inside the Socialist party. But, unlike Montebourg, he did not participate in Hollande-bashing, nor was he part of the plot to chase Hollande's first prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault out of office. 

Peillon has not yet declared his candidacy, and Martine Aubry denies having asked him to run as Le Canard Enchaîné reported. It is not clear yet how much support Peillon would get among Aubry's and Hollande's supporters, writes Le Monde. He has until December 15 to put his name in the hat. There are already seven in there: Manuel Valls, Arnaud Montebourg, Benoît Hamon, Marie-Noëlle Lienemann and Gérard Filoche (left wing) from the Socialist party (PS), as well as Jean-Luc Bennahmias (UDE) and François de Rugy (Green party).

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December 08, 2016

Mainstream parties more popular in Ireland

Fianna Fáil overtook Fine Gael to become the most popular political party in Ireland, according to the latest Irish Times poll. Asking 1,200 voters who they would vote for in the next general elections, and excluding the undecided (21%), the results are the following: 30% said Fianna Fáil (+4pp), Fine Gael 27% (+1pp), Sinn Féin 17% (-2pp), Labour 6% (+1pp) and 20% go to others/independents. Both mainstream parties increased their appeal compared to the poll in October at the expense of Sinn Féin and the Independents and smaller parties. Fianna Fáil particularly benefited from a surge in the Dublin area. A surprise feature of the poll is a seven-point jump in Enda Kenny's satisfaction rating, his best performance in four years, and this is accompanied by a five-point increase in the government’s rating.

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December 08, 2016

Another inch towards Brexit

We don’t often bring you the Daily Mail, but we thought that the story about Niall Ferguson is interesting because it signals something we have noted as well. The EU’s massive policy failures are now becoming increasingly apparent, and weakening the resolve of former Remainers to sabotage the referendum result.

Ferguson spoke in London and made the case that he was wrong in opposing Brexit. His argument is that the EU 

“has been a disaster for southern Europe and has only worked for Germany and northern Europe.”

He listed the failings of the EU in the areas of monetary policy, foreign policy, refugees, and the policies on radical Islam.

Yesterday's Brexit motion in the House of Commons may have been non-binding, but it is a good test of the British parliament’s huge majority in favour of Brexit - a majority of 448 to 75. Kenneth Clarke was the only Tory to vote against the government, and most of the others are from the Scottish National Party and the LibDems. The vote has no legal significance, but the House of Commons will not stop Brexit.

But the ongoing legal case, and the possibility that the mood in the Labour Party may shift over time, make some of the pro-Brexit commentators nervous. The Daily Telegraph warns that process threatens to take precedence over substance. The paper quotes a Labour Party spokesman as saying that they would bring forward amendments to the Article 50 bill unless the government produces a viable exit plan.

“Is that a threat to stymie Brexit? Is the demand for a “coherent plan” really a cover for stopping the whole process? We trust not; and there were few voices raised against fulfilling the wishes expressed in the referendum. All those who did not like the outcome but who are now resigned to it say their intention is to ensure the best possible result for the country in negotiating its departure.”

The Guardian noted that the Labour Party didn’t get as much as it wanted. Most importantly, the party is now also committed to the March 31 deadline, when the autumn of next year would have been a better choice (on this point we agree). But the debate is no longer about whether Brexit should happen or not, but what kind of Brexit. 

"A hard Brexit option will not be acceptable to the Tory left, while a soft Brexit option will not be acceptable to the right. Wednesday was a skirmish. But the battles, and the casualties, will come in the new year."

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