I watched by chance an excellent profile of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, last night on TV.
It was presented by Andrew Marr, an experienced UK political commentator still recovering from a stroke, who gave a reasonably balanced portrait of the political leader.
The programme was very timely as today Mrs Merkel’s fate as Chancellor, a post she has held since 2005, is being decided by the German electorate. Even when all the results are in there will still be lengthy negotiations around the composition of the new government.
What I found interesting about the programme was the fact that ‘Angie’, as she is affectionately called by her supporters (think of a well-known Rolling Stones song), is characterised by those who know her as a quiet, reflective, no thrills, but determined leader. Not your stereotypical, brash politician like her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder. The implication was that such an old-fashioned style of politics can’t work anymore in coalition government.
Merkel’s success to date in the polls may be an indication of a changing mood about democracy in Europe. Less confrontational and more gentle, but firm diplomacy. The power of the ‘Nudge’.
This has also happened in the UK where we have witnessed over three years of Coalition Government, a highly unusual state of politics in this country. The Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, in his conference speech last week, read out a list of unfavourable policies his party had persuaded Conservative partners NOT to implement. He argued that this was a key benefit of coalition politics. I am intrigued to see if the Prime Minister, David Cameron, will come up with his own version of such a list at the Tory conference in Manchester at the end of this month.
You could imagine the 2015 UK General Election leading to yet another coalition, perhaps with a different grouping of partners. It will be interesting to see how any post-vote negotiations progress, now that we have all become a bit wiser about the rules of the game.
And there’s no harm in asking Mrs Merkel for her advice.