The Law of Unintended Consequences never fails to astound and delight. Remember back in 2015 when the (then) seemingly unassailable German Chancellor threw open her country’s borders to an almost unquantifiable mass of humanity? Remember how speedily this altruistic but naive and virtue signalling gesture turned to dust after the attacks on young women in many German cities that New Year’s Eve?
Whatever Merkel’s motivation – whether out of a desire to provide cheap labour for German manufacturers and other employers challenged by Germany’s well publicised demographic deficit, or simply out of the milk of human kindness – the disruption caused to Germany and states on the migration trail en route such as Austria, Hungary and other Balkan countries has created a time bomb which has proved to be Merkel’s undoing, and which will ultimately seal the conclusion of her lengthy Chancellorship. It will also change the face of German politics more substantially than any event since the end of the Second World War, including even the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Merkel’s ill thought out plan (implemented on the hoof with no proper parliamentary consultation) was the midwife of a brand new political party: the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) which challenged the cosy and comfortable consensus of the German Conservative (CDU/CSU) and Labour (SPD) Parties – sound familiar?
Fast forward a couple of years and the AfD is set to become the main opposition party if, as expected, the CDU/CSU and the SPD once more enter into a Grand Coalition; a deal which now just remains to be confirmed by a ballot of the SPD’s membership. All very interesting I hear you say, but how does that affect us here in the UK?
The answer is that there are elections to the State Parliament in Bavaria this Autumn. Bavaria has been ruled as a one party state by the Christian Social Union (CSU) ever since the founding of the Federal Republic. The CSU is Merkel’s junior partner in the governing Conservative alliance, or “Union”, which itself will be the dominant force in the Grand Coalition with the SPD.
No other party has ever been able to challenge the CSU electorally in Bavaria until now. Watch out for this year’s Bavarian elections. The AfD did not field any candidates in these elections last time round, and if they manage to prise overall control of the Bavarian State Parliament away from the CSU, the political landscape not just in Bavaria, but in the whole of Germany will be changed forever. And with it, Germany’s relationship with the rest of the EU and the UK.
If, as expected, the CSU performs badly in the Autumn, its leadership will wish to distance itself from Merkel and will perhaps insist on her resignation as the price for their continuing support for the CDU, for fear that when the next German General Election comes round the CSU might not otherwise manage to exceed the 5% hurdle necessary to be represented in and recognised as a proper “Fraktion” or party group within the Bundestag, and must instead rely upon direct mandates. Should that happen, there would then be a real likelihood that the AfD, like their colleagues in Austria the FPO, would be catapulted into Government.
For the moment however, Merkel is a wounded beast. She has no-one else left to rely on and has been forced to cobble together yet another helping of the tired and discredited Grand Coalition, a curious and jaded mixture which sees the German equivalents of Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Jacob Rees-Mogg all sitting around the same Cabinet table. So desperate is she to avoid fresh elections that this was her second attempt at coalition building; talks with the German Greens and LibDems already having failed. Apart from the AfD, the only other party to whom Merkel has not yet spoken which is represented in the Bundestag is the Linke, or Left Party. This is an unlovely bunch of Momentumites who are directly descended from the late unlamented East German Communist Party (SED) which specialised in walling in its own people and shooting those who wished to leave, much as Kim Jong-Un does in North Korea today. It is hard to imagine even Angela Merkel making common ground with these people, although of course she did start off her political career in their youth organisation many years ago.
German politics is changing beyond all recognition, and with it the vice like grip of the Tweedledee/Tweedledum Eurofanaticism of the Conservative CDU under Angela Merkel and the Labour SPD under her opposite number Martin Schulz, the former President of the European Parliament.
With by far the EU’s biggest economy and its biggest population, a central geographical location at the heart of the continent the EU’s biggest financial contributor, Germany remains both the EU’s engine and its driver, whatever the Remainers may claim about Macron’s France. In the Berlin-Paris Axis it is Berlin which is most definitely in pole position.
Expect a more Brexit friendly attitude to gradually emerge.
Richard Ford is Chairman of UKIP Gloucester and Chairman of UKIP Gloucestershire. He was the UKIP Parliamentary Candidate for Gloucester in the 2015 General Election.