As one door opens to let Chan­cel­lor out, the walls close in on the PM

The Herald - - OPINION -

ONE is fond of kit­ten­heeled de­signer num­bers, the other could be a poster woman for Clarks’ com­fi­est. But there is lit­tle doubt that Theresa May would this week­end prefer to be in An­gela Merkel’s shoes rather than her own, even if the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor is step­ping down as her party’s leader.

In the Ger­man sys­tem the job of party leader is sep­a­rate to that of Chan­cel­lor. One per­son can do both, as Mrs Merkel has for the past 13 years, or the re­spon­si­bil­ity can be split. It is an odd busi­ness. Imag­ine Labour’s John Mcdon­nell be­com­ing PM while Jeremy Cor­byn re­mained as party leader (a neat idea, some might think).

But it works for Ger­many, which is why Mrs Merkel was set last night to be re­placed as chair of the cen­tre-right Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU), but con­tinue as Chan­cel­lor till the next fed­eral elec­tions in 2021.

That, at any rate, is the the­ory. In re­al­ity, how long Mrs Merkel con­tin­ues as Chan­cel­lor de­pends on her suc­ces­sor as CDU leader, An­negret Kramp-kar­ren­bauaer. If she con­tin­ues to be her ally, as seems likely, fine. If not, there may be trou­ble ahead.

Ei­ther way, yesterday felt like the end of an era as her party rushed to pay trib­ute to the woman known to the coun­try as “Mutti”. There is much that is re­mark­able about Mrs Merkel, not least her longevity at the top of Ger­man and EU pol­i­tics. Like the Queen, she has watched other coun­tries’ lead­ers come and go while she sailed on serenely. Since she be­came Chan­cel­lor in 2005 the conga line of Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ters has stretched from Blair to May. What­ever new kid ap­peared on the block, she kept her trade­mark calm and car­ried on.

Her de­ci­sion in 2015 to open Ger­many’s doors to one mil­lion refugees changed all that. At the time it was was seen as a deeply hu­mane move, yet a prag­matic one, too. Refugees, mostly from Syria, des­per­ately needed homes, and an ageing Ger­many re­quired work­ers. When doubts were raised about the num­bers, Mrs Merkel in­sisted: “We can do this.”

At­tacks by mi­grants in Cologne and out­breaks of vi­o­lence else­where, all ex­ploited by the far right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AFD), showed Ger­many was not up to the task of tak­ing in so many

„ Typ­i­cal Cy­ber­men, barg­ing their way in and tak­ing over the place. Their mis­sion? To tell Earth­lings that the first round of tick­ets is now on sale for BBC Stu­dios and Es­cape Hunt’s forth­com­ing Doc­tor Who Live Es­cape Game – Worlds Col­lide, open­ing in Birm­ing­ham in Jan­uary. Fabio De Paola/pa Wire

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