Thursday, 27 February 2014

3 things David Cameron could learn from Angela Merkel

It isn't very often that I get particularly excited about visits by foreign dignitaries. Barack Obama's visit a few years back was nice, but it didn't exactly inspire me. By the time he visited, what shine that was left on his Presidency was quickly wearing thin for me. Yes, he was a glossy American politician wearing a nice suit, but it didn't get me excited. Angela Merkel's visit today, however, is incredibly exciting - if only for the perspective it gives over David Cameron's leadership of his party and our country. It seems to me that Cameron (somebody who I still believe is made, in some percentage or another, out of pork luncheon meat) could learn a thing or two by Europe's most powerful leader and coalition-builder in chief.

Firstly, Merkel proves that grandstanding about whether people will or won't enter coalition won't make any difference. The piece in the Telegraph on Monday suggesting that Cameron would pledge not to enter coalition again only proves an air of arrogance that we haven't seen in a while. From my experience, people on the doorstep quite like the fact that coalition means a middle way. It's a sad indictment on the two major parties that the likely outcome of the next General Election is that the public finds both of them too shabby to award an overall majority. Merkel is well versed in coalition building, in the national interest or otherwise, and she knows that the public should never be second guessed. This is something the Conservatives could do with remembering.

On another front, her visit says something very important about a Conservative Party prone to puffing it's chest over Europe. It's all well and good whining about referenda or rebates, but would any of the Tory back-benchers have the gall to say it to her face? There's no irony lost on me in the fact that whilst Cameron tries to be as macho on EU reform as possible, we're welcoming the head-honcho with open arms. The reality is, whatever squabbles we're currently having about the EU (regardless of the fact that a referendum has already been legislated for, thanks very much), I wouldn't be surprised if a fair amount of fawning goes on on all sides. At least we can breathe a sigh of relief that Peter Bone is otherwise engaged.
Germany, in safe hands.
For me though, the crux of the matter is that Angela Merkel's visit only shows British Poltics for what it is - male, pale and small. Rather than engaging properly in debate about the big issues (you know, the fact that climate change still exists despite the recession, or the fact that we have an ageing population whose pensions and benefits aren't going to pay themselves?) our politicians argue back and forth in circles. Should we ban the Burqa? How can we make the lives on immigrants harder? Should we bring back the dealth penalty in the light of the Lee Rigby verdict? I'd rather our politicians worried about where we, as a country, are going - instead, they seem to rattle around desperately trying to win over the right-wing press in a bid to scrape together a few more seats. Our politics and our politicians are growing smaller, it's no wonder people aren't likely to care enough either way to turn out to vote.

I, for one, am glad that Liberal Democrats at Spring Conference will have the option to support truly progressive and forward-thinking policy - not bound by some kind of trial by Daily Mail. If we can learn anything from Angela Merkel, it's to accept that coalition is a very likely possibility, but steam ahead regardless; carving a vibrant and Liberal vision for the United Kingdom. Then, and only then, we will be able to show the other parties for what they are - shabby little men, chasing polls more than they're chasing votes. The people of this country deserve better.

As Delia Smith might say, 'Let's be 'avin you.'

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