June 5th, 2017
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Then the camera shows a middle-aged woman at a desk, sipping coffee and reading a paper. She is glimpsed from an oblique angle. Her face isn’t clear but the viewer knows her name. She is the most famous politician in the country, and the message is obvious: while you start your day she is already hard at work, safeguarding the future – strong and stable.
The woman in the video is Angela Merkel and the film is a highly effective advertisement for her Christian Democratic party from 2013. It is also the dream campaign that Theresa May wishes she could run. In April the prime minister had a reputation for unflashy determination. She called an election on the presumption that voters would see her as the serious woman for serious times: the candidate who would get on with her job so you can get on with your life.
The glaring difference between Merkel’s and May’s brands of solidity is that the German chancellor’s reputation is founded on a record of 11 years in office. During that time, she has witnessed the falls of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. She has outlasted George W Bush and Barack Obama. Vladimir Putin is the only fixture on the global summitry scene to rival her endurance. She has steered her country through financial crisis and terrorist atrocity.
Consider how Brexit appears to such a veteran: a powerful country relegating itself from the diplomatic premier league and claiming it as a short-cut to the top of the trading champions’ league. It looks potty. Germany manages to be a top-ranking global exporter and a stalwart EU member without one contradicting the other.
One of the most poignant reactions I heard in the aftermath of last year’s referendum was from a German diplomat. He was stunned but also, as an Anglophile, saddened. “We thought of you British as a pragmatic people,” he told me. Our neighbours have not just had to process the economic repercussions of Brexit. The vote, and May’s zealous embrace of it, has changed perceptions of the UK’s character on the world stage. We look volatile, uncooperative, nationalistic. In a speech in Munich on Sunday, Merkel lumped Britain in with Donald Trump’s America as a flaky ally, newly conditional in loyalty to the continent.