is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
As Germans burst onto the streets to insist on leaving their coronavirus lockdown, it’s clear that patience with Angela Merkel has worn paper thin, and though her health might survive the pandemic, her chancellorship may not.
Protests in cities across Germany – including Munich, Berlin, Stuttgart and Dortmund – saw the German media intent on pinning the unrest on the “far right” without any evidence, when the reality seemed to be a hotchpotch of demonstrators with a range of gripes, all of whom shared the common belief over the nation’s lockdown, that enough is enough.
Some corners of the MSM were even hyping up fears that the wave of protests are creating a “fertile ground for radicalisation” from the far right. Who exactly was supposed to be behind this was not identified, and no representatives from usual suspects the AfD came forward to claim credit, so maybe it’s safe to say this is the product of some over-excited journalism, a hysterical hangover.
Mind you, some of those protesting – such as ‘vegan influencer’ Attila Hildmann and ‘musician’ Xavier Naidoo – make it easy for the oddball slights to find traction, with their wild claims of conspiracies and suggestions of a “new world order.”
The problem that arises is no politician wants to fall on the wrong side of the lockdown argument, so they pretend these social media nutters with their whacked-out ideas, plus anti-vaccine protestors and 5G conspiracy theorists, all belong to some weird right-wing puppet supergroup of dissent.
Mainstream political groups the CDU, the SDP, Greens and FDP have come out swinging against the protestors, choosing to tackle them over their clearly mad claims that Bill Gates was somehow using the pandemic to gain control over the world, while ignoring the fact that the ongoing protests are essentially about the lockdown and its unwanted consequences on the family finances and the mental wellbeing of mum, dad, the kids, and even the family dog.
In a typical “look, over there!” tactic, the CDU spokesman said: “We will not let extremists misuse the coronavirus crisis as a platform for their anti-democratic propaganda.”
But because politicians are powerless in the face of the virus and its indiscriminate behaviour, they focus on something they think will give them traction, no matter how much ridicule they leave themselves open to by being drawn into arguing over the validity of such nonsensical claims as a Covid-19 vaccine being developed to infect and control the population.
And as you would expect, the politicians have rolled out that bad boy ‘fake news’ against the very people who claim they are guilty of mistruths.
A circular argument if ever there was one.
Although police have arrested a couple of hundred protestors overall in the last fortnight, the demonstrations have been nowhere near as violent as, say, a Saturday night in Paris. The worst disputes seem to centre around people choosing not to wear the obligatory face masks as they attempt to go about what used to be considered “normal” life.
Nowadays, things like shopping, going for a walk in the park, or having a beer with your friends are like freedoms from years past, ones we have been unreasonably denied by an unaccountable cadre of politicians, secret advisors and scare-mongering scientists.
Well, that’s what it seems like to many.
As for Merkel, she announced she was throwing in the towel as leader of her political outfit, the CDU, and would leave her role as chancellor before next year’s scheduled German elections.
And that is a problem. Because there is nothing lamer than a lame duck leader. Having announced she was leaving her post, Merkel’s chosen successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer stepped up, then stepped down as CDU boss only months later in February this year, so Merkel was handed back the reins, clearly lacking the heart to take charge again when she had her eyes looking to those sunbeds on the horizon.
Now Germany faces the worst recession in its recorded history, and its people will be looking to Merkel to get them through.
But does she still have the get up and go required for this? It is, after all, a massive ask. And with a sudden re-emergence of coronavirus cases a possibility, the first big problem (public health) still needs to be dealt with conclusively before the second one (the economy) can be given the attention it is crying out for.
Germany needs a dynamic leader with vision, enthusiasm and determination to keep the nation afloat while the rest of Europe plunges headfirst into the long-term economic doldrums.
I cannot be the only one to doubt that person is Angela Merkel.