Mrs Merkel’s Waterloo – it feels like she loses when she wins

The German election was a big win for the Euro and the EU. The anti Euro party did not quite manage the 5% needed to gain seats in the Parliament, whilst all the other elected parties are strongly in favour of the Euro and EU integration. Mrs Merkel heralded her victory as  a victory for European integration. German PR, much praised by some on this site, ensured the near 10% who voted FDP and AFD went unrepresented by their parties  in Parliament.

Whilst Mrs Merkel is enjoying the plaudits for boosting her party’s vote and getting close to winning an outright majority, it is necessary to grasp that the election has not made governing either Germany or the Euro any easier, and in some ways has added to Mrs Merkel’s difficulties. The main vote change was a big shift of votes from the more free market more Euro cautious FDP to Mrs Merkel’s party. Her coalition partner lost all their seats and has been all but destroyed for the time being as a political force. This follows on the crushing defeat of her main opponents, the SDP, in 2009  after they had joined her in coalition in 2005.

There are two consequences from these changes. The first is that Mrs Merkel’s policies, dragged in the direction of less spending, more free markets by the FDP are  no longer  under  that pressure. The second is the SDP – and the Greens-  will be understandably worried about any offer to join Mrs Merkel in coalition, as it does not look like a good idea for them. The Leader of the SDP made a very vocal rejection of the idea that he personally would serve in a Merkel government both before and immediately after the election.

 

There are four  possible outcomes. The first is a coalition with the SDP.  They will demand a Minimum Wage and other social legislation. They are unlikely to be much more well disposed to bailing out the Greeks than Mrs Merkel, as they will be fresh from  an election where the German people made clear their hostility to paying the bills for the south of the currency zone.  As the SDP leader has ruled out himself serving in a Merkel led government, it would require another senior SDP figure to volunteer, and may lead to a change of leader of the SDP.

The second is a coalition with  the Greens, who might in the end find the lure of office too great and help her out. They will make more demands on renewables and other energy issues, and may also pursue the left of centre employment agenda as well. Mrs Merkel’s past U turn on nuclear makes this option easier.

 

The third is Mrs Merkel cannot agree a coalition with either the Greens or the SDP. There is no tradition of minority government in  Germany, and it may mean an early new election, after a period of government doing nothing to provoke the Parliament.

 

The fourth is the SDP and Greens get over their aversion to the rest of the left in the Parliament and form a grand socialist coalition, something they have always declined to do. German commentary appears to find this very unlikely. Such a red-red-green coalition would want to pursue a social agenda on labour law and minimum wage, higher spending and deficits, stricter controls on markets and finance, and maybe  disarmament/neutrality policies.

Some UK commentators say that an SDP or Green – Merkel coalition will be keener to subsidise the south and west of the Euro zone and accept debt write offs. I am not so sure. Each German party will have heard from the doorsteps how unpopular using German tax money to bail out other countries still remains. The SDP and Greens want to spend more subsidising and investing in Germany, not in Greece or Cyprus. They will be very conscious of how dangerous it is in coalition with Mrs Merkel and will not want the blame for unpopular Euro bail out policies to be landed on them.

Mrs Merkel did a good job keeping the Euro crisis off the agenda in the run up to her election. Now she does have to tackle the banking crisis and proto union, and the issues over financing the governments and balance of payments deficits of the weaker countries.

Ironically her famous grand victory was not grand enough to give her a majority. In a way it has left her more exposed than when she had the FDP as her coalition partners. If she has enough of the conservative in her, allying with either the Greens or the SDP is going to be a trial. Let’s hope her effusive united Europe rhetoric strengthens sinews in the UK for more independence.

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78 Comments

  1. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Having a big election boost and a well performing economy will give Angela Merkel some wriggle-room to help sort out the problems in the Eurozone. We should not forget that German politics tends to be consensual and based on coalitions. Although all commentators expect another coalition with the SPD, I imagine that fewer concessions would be required with a much smaller party like the Greens (still 50x larger than the Greens in the UK, but the German figures better reflect public opinion of course). This wiggle-room is also there to help the UK feel more comfortable inside the EU, which is bad news for die-hard eurosceptics. 🙂

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Peter,
      Whether its wriggle room or wiggle room the UK cannot feel more comfortable inside the EU. We don’t want to be governed by a foreign organisation.

    • Richard1
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      The wriggle room consists of pretend and extend debts which cant be repaid. I think a large majority in the UK want to make sure that the bill when it comes – as it surely will – as far as possible does not land with us.

      We also note how under PR, it is completely unclear what the colour of the new German govt will be. Its all down to political horse-trading. Everything promised in the election is now up for negotiation to get a majority.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted September 25, 2013 at 5:04 am | Permalink

        @Richard1: The colour of a future German government appears to be clear to all commentators, not different from the give an take in the UK after your 2010 elections

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Thank you for a superb, detailed and thoughtful analysis. It is much appreciated: nobody else seems to be doing it.

    • Horatio McSherry
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Totall agree with Mike. A thorough, thoughful and dispassionate analysis is refreshing and much appreciated. Many thanks, John.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    “Let’s hope her effusive united Europe rhetoric strengthens sinews in the UK for more independence.”

    The UK voters are already very strongly anti EU, as we will see clearly in the MEP elections shortly, the problem is the political leadership of the parties, who keep treating the electorate with complete contempt once in power. They seem to think the UK democracy is theirs to permanently give away. Cameron’s cast iron ratting, which lost him the sitting duck election, was the final straw for many voters. But alas there is little they can do, as democracy has already largely been given away by Heath, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron, most of the state sector mandarins and much assisted by endless BBC propaganda and bias (that voters even had to pay for).

    With Cameron’s ratting the battle is surely now lost, certainly with Milliband and even if Cameron did manage to win he will clearly find some fig leafs, fudge and rat on voters yet again.

    Reply Mr Cameron did not rat. He was the first PM to veto a Treaty and the first to demand and get a cut in the EU budget, despite Lib Dems in coalition.

    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      Nearly half the 2005 Conservative Party membership look as if they felt he ratted.

    • lifelogic
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      He offered a cast iron guarantee to put any treaty emerges in front of the voters – he has not done so or even tried to do so, using the blatant lie that a treaty is no longer a treaty once ratified.

      He has also ratted on IHT thresholds even after the next election not that he can win it.

      Reply IHT was a promise for a Conservative government which the Lib dems would not support – otherwise it would have been done.

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        The only reason we even have to suffer the coalition is his pre-election ratting.

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        They have not even promised the £1M IHT threshold, for just after the next election in the highly unlikely event they win – and no one would ever believe Cameron/Osborne even if they did do.

        Reply We might have other priorities for tax cuts after 2015 – there will be new Manifesto ideas for 2015.

        • lifelogic
          Posted September 25, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

          Tax cuts will never be a priority for Cameron types, it is simply not part of his genetic make up. He is simply not a Tory, he is a state sector think bureaucrat, running the country in the short term interests of the state sector and off the backs of the productive sector that pays for all the nonsense he pushes.

    • Mark B
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Sorry, but there was NO Treaty, it was a Fiscal Pact. To have a Treaty, you must first call for an inter-governmental conference. No such conference was called. Merkel and Sarkozy got what they wanted with their ‘Pact’. All Cameron did was to refuse to sign. As such, they went ahead anyway without him. Cameron threaten to use the ECJ to stop the other countries using EU institutions and bringing it through the back door.

      There was no Treaty, and there was no Veto !

      Reply There was no Treaty because Mr C vetoed it! It becamne a Pact

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        So he changed the name from a Treaty to a Pact, rather like the EU constitution name change used to avoid the promise of a referendum and any democratic input to it.

        reply The EU had to change the name from Treaty because it is not a Treaty and does not apply to the UK!

      • David ashton
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        Cameron did not veto a treaty, this can only be done at an Intergovermental Conference. He presumably made it clear to Merkozy et al that he would veto if a treaty was put to an IGC.

        Reply_ Yes, he vetoed it!

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted September 25, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

          Under Article 48 TEU an Intergovernmental Conference or IGC is a “conference of representatives of the governments of the Member States”. It need not be a separate event; for example this is what happened with the EU treaty change needed to allow three surplus Germans to keep their seats in the EU Parliament:

          http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/100706-wms0001.htm

          “In order to make the required transitional changes, the member states of the EU agreed a protocol containing transitional arrangements concerning the composition of the European Parliament, via a very limited intergovernmental conference (IGC) in the margins of the 23 June meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives of EU Member States.”

          I guess you’re right that technically the meeting of the European Council was not an IGC, but Merkel chose to treat part of it as being one.

          The “fiscal pact” is a treaty, but not an EU treaty; it could not be an EU treaty, because not all of the EU member states agreed to become parties to it.

          http://www.eurozone.europa.eu/media/304649/st00tscg26_en12.pdf

          “TREATY ON STABILITY, COORDINATION AND GOVERNANCE IN THE ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION BETWEEN THE KINGDOM OF BELGIUM, THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA, THE KINGDOM OF DENMARK, THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY, THE REPUBLIC OF ESTONIA, IRELAND, THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC, THE KINGDOM OF SPAIN, THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC, THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS, THE REPUBLIC OF LATVIA, THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA, THE GRAND DUCHY OF LUXEMBOURG, HUNGARY, MALTA, THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS, THE REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA, THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND, THE PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC, ROMANIA, THE REPUBLIC OF SLOVENIA, THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC, THE REPUBLIC OF FINLAND AND THE KINGDOM OF SWEDEN”

  4. Mike Wilson
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    ‘… German PR, much praised by some on this site, ensured the near 10% who voted FDP and AFD went unrepresented by their parties in Parliament. …’

    Difficult to tell from that comment, Mr. Redwood, if you think that the 10% who voted FDP and AFD are now unrepresented.

    Still, a 35% share of the vote – for Labour – ensures a big majority in parliament. We, clearly, have a much better system. 65% don’t vote for Labour, yet Labour get in with a thumping majority enabling them to claim a mandate to do whatever they see fit.

    • Acorn
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      47.3% of Wokingham voters “went unrepresented by their parties in Parliament”.

      Reply Not so. They are all individually of course represented by me, but they also have Labour and Lib Dems in Parliament representing their party.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Edit my own post – just realised I missed a bit off this sentence …

      Difficult to tell from that comment, Mr. Redwood, if you think that the fact the 10% who voted FDP and AFD are now unrepresented is a good thing or not? What do you think? Is it right that 10% of the people should vote for a party yet have no representation in the legislature?

      Reply I prefer a system where FPTP gets you elected. That way parties with under 5% can get MPs if they work at being popular in iondividual seats or parts of the country.

    • Peter van Leeuwen
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      @Mike Wilson: I assume your remarks are meant ironically. Even with total PR there can be draw-backs: In the Netherlands with about 10 million active voters, 67000 votes already assures you of a seat in parliament. Normally this is fine, even when there are 10 serious parties, but if all percentages come too close to each other, forming a strong enough government becomes more complicated. Germany is less fragmented. Britain could do with more parties or a better system than its FPTP.

      • Mike Wilson
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        @Peter van Leeuwen: Well, no, my remarks were not meant to be ironic.

        I appreciate that PR can lead to difficulties forming a government. I appreciate it is not perfect.

        But, I’d like to suggest it is a lot more perfect than the current arrangement where 35% of the vote gets Labour a large majority.

        At the moment our political system is heaping at least a trillion pounds worth of debt onto the next generation. I care about my children. I think they deserve something better than this.

        • Edward2
          Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

          Would a system of PR really produce a strong enough Government to reduce overspending in the face of opposition to austerity?
          Most minority parties in Europe seem to be in favour of even more State spending.

  5. Mark B
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    John Redwood MP said,

    “The German election was a big win for the Euro and the EU. ”

    How so ? The German people voted, I am sure, on a whole range of issues, some of which you touched upon. They did not vote to keep or reject the Euro or the EU, none of that was on the table. Not even the AfD wanted to leave the EU.

    As for bank transfers, well, the Eurozone is in a complete mess and I am sure will be glad that this little matter of an election has been settled. They can now get on with the job of integration. And that means new treaty.

    When the German people see a new treaty in the offering and it entails full fiscal, financial and political UNION I think they are not going to be too happy.

    Lastly.

    “Her coalition partner (FDP ed) lost all their seats and has been all but destroyed . . . . ”

    Any chance of putting that under the nose of the Deputy Prime Minister ?????

    Please.

    Reply The AFD was the party to leave the Euro – 95% clearly want to stay in the Euro sufficiently to ignore the chance to vote for it. More Importantly, the first thing Mrs Merkel said on her election was she sees it as a big win for the Euro and the EU.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      Re “95% clearly want to stay in the Euro sufficiently to ignore the chance to vote for it” come on John you know how it works… people get scared by all the “vote for UKIP get labour” stuff and suchlike… its all a bit more complicated than that

  6. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    TV clips caught looking drunk with power! If she can keep a lid on it and work well with the other countries I think I am correct when I say it doesn’t affect the UK. I personally am looking forward to helping Greece out for a week soon; they need us UK holiday makers and it would not matter to us whether it was Euros we spent or not.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      I think I edited the above comment wrongly in my rush to get to work. Never mind , it won’t alter Mrs Merkels glory , but my money will contribute to Greece’s road to recovery.

  7. forthurst
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    “German PR, much praised by some on this site, ensured the near 10% who voted FDP and AFD went unrepresented by their parties in Parliament.”

    When we were offered the grotesquely flawed alternative vote sytem, it was also on the basis of a 5% threshold, as Peter Bottomley stated on TV, in order to keep the BNP out. The German people are allowed democracy, but like the British, not too much. Were it not for this absurd 5% restriction, Frau Merkel would have had no difficulty in forming a government. However, the Germans do rather better than us in so far as they are unlikely to get a government with a mandate from slightly over 20% of the electorate. Being also an intelligent woman, it is unlikely that Frau Merkel would have entered a coalition whose terms did not include a force majeure clause to deal with the libdems welshing on the boundary changes.

    • uanime5
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      it is unlikely that Frau Merkel would have entered a coalition whose terms did not include a force majeure clause to deal with the libdems welshing on the boundary changes.

      And the Lib Dems would probably have wanted a similar clause if the Conservatives welshed on the Lords reform.

  8. Denis Cooper
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    This election result will not help Cameron in his purported quest to get powers returned from the EU to the UK.

    Merkel remains in charge, and she remains opposed to any EU treaty changes to repatriate powers to member states.

    At the same time she will seek to stretch and bend the present EU treaties to further integration, and to that end she will try to make use of the “enhanced co-operation provisions” in the treaties, and if necessary she will once again step outside the EU treaties to make an intergovernmental agreement like the “fiscal pact” – and once again Cameron will allow her to make use of the EU institutions for that purpose, and he will allow her to breach the EU treaties in the terms of that intergovernmental agreement, both those precedents having been set with the “fiscal pact” – and if EU treaty change does become unavoidable for her objective of greater integration then she will take great care that it is written so that it does not trigger a UK referendum under Hague’s “referendum lock” law, as with the EU treaty change that Cameron gave her free gratis and for nothing on March 25th 2011.

    • Peter van Leeuwen
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      @Denis Cooper: I do think this might actually help Cameron. It is only that you will disagree about what amounts to powers returned. If subsidiarity were really taken more seriously then I do think it possible that certain competences will return to a national level (for all members!) A European Council can make provisional agreements, to be solidified much later in a treaty amendment. I don’t expect a new treaty by 2017, but it is not impossible either.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted September 25, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        “If subsidiarity were really taken more seriously”

        I hope that people will see through the subsidiarity lie and refuse to take it seriously. They should do, as it’s a lie which has already been deployed on several occasions – over the Maastricht Treaty, over the EU Constitution, and then again over its repackaged version the Lisbon Treaty – and by now it should be widely understood that it is a lie. I will certainly do everything I can to defeat those who promote the lie, and make sure that people are not taken in by their deliberate deceit.

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted September 25, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

          @Denis Cooper: “If subsidiarity were really taken more seriously” is meant to be done by ALL involved, so also the Commision and other stakeholders in EU policy. Based on history you apparently don’t think this could happen, but it is simply a clause, a principle, available in the treaties, maybe lying there a bit dormant, but waiting to be really used.

          I miss a “legal argument” against subsidiarity as such, from our most respected legal expert on this blog.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted September 25, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            Peter,

            You know perfectly well that “subsidiarity” was never intended to be anything more than a worthless sop; Major and Hurd also knew that perfectly well at the time of the Maastricht Treaty; Blair and Brown also knew it at the time of the EU Constitution, and then its reincarnation in the shape of the Lisbon Treaty; those pushing it now, including Hague with his “red card” proposal and Leadsom of the Tory “Fresh Start” group, also know it perfectly well.

            Moreover it is not just a worthless sop, it is positively insulting; a sovereign state should never be prepared to submit to any form of transnational majority voting to decide whether or not it shall have a new law.

            Read the words of the German ambassador quoted below:

            “British negotiators were well aware that subsidiarity … equalled federation, and were content that it be so, provided the sceptics back home did not hear about it.”

          • Lindsay McDougall
            Posted September 26, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps you would deal with this practical point. Whenever there is a dispute over powers or competence between the EC and an individual Member State, the European Court almost invariably rules in favour of the EC. Why is this?

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted September 26, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

            @Lindsay McDougall: Even Google appears to disagree with you:
            Thursday, September 12, 2013: “ECJ legal opinion marks important preliminary victory for UK in short selling dispute”.
            The UK has this morning been set on the path to an important victory at the European Court of Justice, after the Advocate General Niilo Jääskinen supported the UK’s claim that the EU’s short selling Regulation transfers too much power to the European Securities Markets Authority (ESMA).

          • margaret brandreth-j
            Posted September 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

            You see how you all tie yourselves up in legalese when actually these documents were collated with the nuances of language difference making their impact on the whole. If these people quoting articles and paragraphs actually looked at the ethics underpinning written phrases and took into account the ambiguity of meaning instead of inadequately attempting to play philosophers in language, then the real issues would be explicit.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted September 25, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        There’s an interesting entry on “subsidiarity” here:

        http://www.euro-know.org/europages/dictionary/s.html

        “The term subsidiarity conveys the impression of a principle that decisions should always be taken at the national level, ‘close to the citizen’, unless for compelling reasons they have to be taken at the EU level. As such it was relied upon by the British government to reconcile the electorate to the federalising implications of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. There were, however, two flaws: subsidiarity is too vague a principle to be relied upon in law; and its meaning is not necessarily what it purports to be, for the term begs the question who determines – and on what criteria – the level at which a decision should be made.”

        “British negotiators were well aware that subsidiarity … equalled federation, and were content that it be so, provided the sceptics back home did not hear about it. Dr Jürgen Oesterholt, German ambassador to Britain, June 1996.”

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted September 25, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

          @Denis Cooper: A vague principle? I would say “all the better”, so that it can be interpreted in the way that the majority of members would want it to be interpreted. What the UK’s task and challenge is, is to find allies to use this principle much more fully. These allies can be found (Netherlands, Germany and others).
          I think you might fear that this will actually work, as it would weaken the more purist “better off out” campaign

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted September 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

            As it happens both our countries have just had an example of how “subsidiarity” works; here, MPs spent hours discussing whether there should be an EU law imposing gender quotas on company boards, and supported the government position that there should be no such law, and so the EU Commission was informed of that; and what happened then?

            http://euobserver.com/justice/118749

            “Parliaments back EU-level gender quota law”

            “BRUSSELS – Most national parliaments in EU countries say the European Commission should go ahead with a law on female quotas on corporate boards. But six disagree.

            Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told press in Brussels on Wednesday (16 January) the consultation with MPs was not about the content of the proposal, but about “subsidiarity” – the question whether a given problem is best tackled at EU or local level.”

            “The green light by 21 out of 27 national assemblies is enough for the commission to go ahead, with MEPs and member states to thrash out details of the new law in talks in Brussels in the coming months.

            The six malcontents are the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the UK.”

            We don’t want your “subsidiarity” with another transnational majority voting system, we want a national veto on every new EU proposal.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted September 26, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

            @Denis Cooper: ‘We don’t want your “subsidiarity” with another transnational majority voting system, we want a national veto on every new EU proposal.’

            Obviously, this is not how I mean “real subsidiarity”. Subsidiarity works when ALL countries (e.g. in the European Council) decide together that certain tasks or competences should move from the EU to the national arena. Such policy decisions can later be incorporated in treaty amendments if so required. A national veto on any EU proposal is synonym to attempting to paralyze the EU. You won’t find me in agreement on this.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted September 26, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

            Of course I won’t Peter, because you’re interested in the EU as a sovereign federation of states not as an international organisation between sovereign member states.

  9. Iain Gill
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Re “The anti Euro party did not quite manage the 5% needed” yes but in the first ever national elections they had stood for, not a bad result from a standing start…

    • David ashton
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely, they have only been in existence for about 6 months. Next years EU elections will be interesting, and the threshold is only 3% in those.

  10. Neil Craig
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    “PR, much praised by some on this site, ensured the near 10% who voted FDP and AFD went unrepresented by their parties in Parliament.”

    Clearly not.
    It was not PR that prevented them being represented it was the constitutional limit that PR only comes into effect for parties getting over 5%. I’m not saying that is a bad variant, there is a good case for it, but that is not PR it is the denial of PR. The Scottish system, requiring parties to get enough regional votes to elect 1 person out of about 6 has a similar effect, though not constitutionally mandated.

    In any case the UK system effectively disenfranchises parties with an awful lot more than 5% & equally corruptly, gives power to parties on only about 1/3rd of the vote (eg Labour’s last 3 victories). Indeed if Labour, UKIP and the Conservatives all get similar votes one might see a majority government with little over 1/4 of the vote.

    John if you want to say why that is a good thing, go ahead but lets have the discussion on the pros and cons of PR on real PR.

    Reply The Greens poll well under 5% but have a seat in the UK Parliament, which they would not get under German PR system. If UKIP really wanted to get a seat in the UK Parliament they would choose a good candidate (Mr Farage?) and ask him to spend 2-3 years nursing a constituency which was vulnerable. (outgoing incumbent/ or very unpopular Euro fanatic incumbent etc)

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      ‘If UKIP really wanted to get a seat in the UK Parliament they would choose a good candidate (Mr Farage?) and ask him to spend 2-3 years nursing a constituency which was vulnerable. (outgoing incumbent/ or very unpopular Euro fanatic incumbent etc)’

      Weasel words! Why not just come right out with it and say that you are happy for parties with significant support to have no representation in our legislature – as long as your party can form a government with just 35% of the vote.

      What is the (expletive deleted – to save you the trouble) point of a party like UKIP jumping through all sorts of hoops to gain a measly seat in parliament when, as seems likely, somewhere between 10% and 25% of the electorate support them.

      I do hope you have jam all over your face in May 2015. Because the only way UKIP can get power at the moment is for your party to be destroyed. Which, it strikes me, is quite likely.

      Reply Have a nice day! Why do you bother coming onto this site if you have such a low view of Conservatives?

      • Mike Wilson
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Well, to be fair, it’s not just Conservatives.

        I just wish you would be honest and say that you support FPTP because it puts you in power, from time to time, based on a minority vote.

        That said, of course, by 2020 you will have been out of power for 28 years. Maybe you’ll change your tune when faced with the prospect of eternal Labour government.

        • Edward2
          Posted September 25, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

          I like FPTP, Mike.
          I know my local candidate(s) and I vote in my local constituency where I understand the local issues, but have to bear in mind national issues too.
          My objection to PR is that I would probably get a coalition which ends up with policies I did not vote for and potentially end up with an MP who I have never met, chosen by the winning party.
          My more contentious opinion is that if people were really at odds with FPTT and its outcomes they would, en masse, vote very differently.
          There is no ban on everyone voting for a current minority party and making them the winner.
          But they do not in election after election, in constituency after constituency.
          One might assume that as they do not vote differently under a system that has been well understood for centuries, that they are overall getting a result they are content with.
          To look at it from the statistic of percentages who vote for a particular party is to misunderstand the current local constituency system which I feel gives us voters a better method of representation compared to he many different imperfect forms of PR.

    • Peter van Leeuwen
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply: I don’t find this an all together fair assessment. It would clearly be better to take the 2009 EU elections as a rough guideor example, in which the following parties would pass the 5% threshold: Conservative(27.7%), UKIP(16.5%), Labour(15.7%), LibDem(13.7%), Green(8.1%), BNP(6.2%). Some new bed-follows, but then, it is democracy.

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Yesterday you told us : “Any negotiator is often wise to remain upbeat about the chances of success. Mrs Merkel will be important in just that matter.”
    Today you say: “Let’s hope her effusive united Europe rhetoric strengthens sinews in the UK for more independence.”
    We already knew that Mrs Merkel’s view was that there should be more Europe not less. The whole EU foundation is based on economic and political union, an end to the sovereign state and a country called Europe. Nothing has changed and there is no chance of strengthening Cameron’s sinews – he has stated that he has no intention of taking the UK out of the EU and most of your MPs are of the same view.

    Reply Mr Cameron has to stress to Mrs Merkel that the UK will vote for completely out unless she gives us a good deal.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply,
      He has already shown his hand – he has no intention of taking the UK out of the EU. His ploy is to emulate Wilson and deceive the British people once more as he did in 1975.

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        His aim seems to be to drive the Tory party over the cliff in 2015, for perhaps 3 + terms just like Major and find himself a nice international job of some sort one assumes.

        He has already destroyed his negotiating hand, he says no greater Switzerland but has yet to give a single reason as to what is wrong with a Greater Switzerland. It is richer has little borrowing, lower interest rates, better health care, better services, lower taxes ……….. what on earth is the problem with it Cameron?

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Mr Cameron has to stress to Mrs Merkel that the UK will vote for completely out unless she gives us a good deal.

      What????? Is it Merkel’s decision? What about (expletive deleted) Barruso and (expletive deleted) Van Rumpoy? And the rest of them?

      Mr. Redwood – when are we going to see a list of demands?

      Meet these demands or we leave!

      When are you going to allow the voters to get a glimpse of what you are actually talking about?

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        You will never see the demands, as he will clearly be out of office in 2015.

  12. Neil Craig
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Just for fun I checked out Electoral Calculus’ to see how it would come out and if all 3 parties get 1/4 of the vote the system will give the Tories close to an overall majority so John perhaps you could stop wingeing about how unfair it is that a vote for UKIP would put Labour in – the opposite is true – at or above UKIP’s most recent council election % votes for UKIP actually help the Tories get unearned seats, at least up to the level where UKIP is clearly ahead.

    Just remind us how committed your party is to democracy.

    • Neil craig
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      My mistake on that John. At that level Labour still have an advantage and would get more seats but not a majority. UKIP voters. of course, still get largely disenfranchised. You may delete these posts if you like since me having made the error they contribute nothing.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Never seen that electoral calculus site before.

      Oh boy, how bloody depressing.

      Put in:

      Conservative 29% – 262 seats
      Labour 29% – 306 seats
      Lib Dem 10% – 28 seats
      UKIP 28% – 25 seats

      Sit back folks and enjoy the ride into oblivion. Unless there is a revolution, we are doomed to be ruled by Labour or Conservatives.

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        LABOUR is surely inevitable. They can and will make EU promises if they need to and will be far more trusted than Cameron if they do. Cameron having thrown his credibility away with his cast rubber promises. They are also right on Syria and now on HS2. Hardly any worse than Cameron at all.

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        A UKIP Tory pact is the only hope and what hope of that with, say one thing do the opposite, Cameron. Oh well we shall see what happens in 2014.

  13. Bert Young
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    The result in Germany may create a difficult coalition to manage in the coming years ; I agree with your view that it may lead to another earlier election . Either way I am more interested in the knock-on effect it will have for us and the predicament for obtaining a more independent UK . We may have negotiated a reduction in our contribution , but , if my memory serves me right , I think we actually finished up contributing more ! . Coalitions do not work , they make a nonsense out of any Party’s manifesto and for a period of uncertain government . The future of the EU depends on direct and indirect German influence ; we have more to gain by distancing ourselves away from the ensuing muddle .

    Reply We negotiatead a cut in the overall budget but our contributions rise thanks to Labour giving away a big chunk of Thatcher’s rebate.

  14. Leslie Singleton
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Personally, I don’t see all this concentration of attention on Germany as being quite such good news for the integrationists. Liking the idea, but not so much the practice, of the Euro as many on the Continent very certainly do, is not quite the same thing as liking Germany, to put it mildly. The Euro is popular in a lot of minor countries (half of which most people couldn’t find on a map) mainly because their people got fed up trying to pretend there were meaningful borders between them and I don’t blame them. Ask anybody who has ever driven across Europe as it was. Thank God the Channel gives us at least a chance literally (old meaning) to insulate ourselves from all the goings-on over there. Are we or are we not the 5th or whatever it is largest economy in the world? There must be a million countries smaller and some much smaller who manage perfectly well without being hidebound by a EU.

  15. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Let us hope that Angela Merkel is content to lead a minority government and call new elections after 6 months or so. That will give the AFD the opportunity to nose ahead of 5%. It remains the case that Germany, which itself has a public sector deficit of 80% of GDP, does not have the resources to bail out the 5 PIIGS (let alone France). The only way to save the Euro is to allow the ECB to get up to its tricks and make the Euro a weak currency – a back door bail out that is not in Germany’s interest.

    • uanime5
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Given that a weak euro will benefit exporters because it makes their products cheaper a weak euro is in Germany’s interests.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted September 26, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        (1) Ever heard of inflation? Ed Miliband clearly hasn’t.
        (2) The weak euro will result from the ECB buying bonds of Greece, Spain etc and printing Euros to finance their purchases. Germany will receive none of this and their existing money stock will be diminished in value.

    • David ashton
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      I believe the German constitution forbids minority governments. Can any one correct me on that?

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted September 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        Possibly you are right, in which case there will be an unwieldy and unworkable CD/CSU/SDP Grand Coalition. I give it about a year before its participants reach for stratjackets.

  16. Acorn
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Not a lot of people know this. The EU mission is to replace the 28 National territorial boundaries with the circa 97 “regions” like the region of South East England and the German “Lander” (NUTS Level 1).

    This clandestine operation is being carried out by the CoR (Committee of the Regions). It is based on “divide and conquer” principle and the natural hate of one tribal area for another within national boundaries. Also, the collective hate that all tribal areas have for their national governments at any particular moment. Hence, many local governments would sooner ally with the EU federal machine than there own national governments. Who could blame them?

    I propose that rich northern Lander like London, could indirectly sponsor a southern peripheral Lander in Greece by pledging to rent holiday homes and stuff like that.

    The Regulation. ‘EGTC’ stands for ‘European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation’. The EGTC, established by Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006, enables public entities from different Member States to come together to create a new body with legal personality under European Law. The EGTC can be a tool for multilevel governance and for implementing the Europe 2020 Strategy, boosting competitiveness and sustainability. It can implement many actions with or without EU funding.
    http://cor.europa.eu/en/documentation/brochures/Documents/delivering-europe-2020.pdf .

    • uanime5
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Well if the EU wants to do something about pollution in the Danube it would be faster for all the areas bordering the Danube to cooperate, rather than having the national governments cooperate.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted September 27, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        The Danube is pretty filthy when it reaches the Black Sea, and my information is that squeaky clean Germany makes a significant contribution to the filth. Mind you, the Bulgarian government used to operate a nuclear plant on the south bank of the Danube. “Same design as Chernobyl” said my proud host.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 25, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      And this is something which in not understood by all the Englishmen rooting for Scotland to become independent, that the break up of the UK is seen as a massive, and indispensable, step towards breaking up England.

  17. Dan H.
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Looking at our gracious host’s analysis, what I think is likely to happen looks quite rosy for Britain, though not for Germany or the EU. The EU is a broadly left-wing, somewhat Socialist organisation which has up to now been held in check by saner heads in Germany; Germany has also been the main financial backstop for the EU.

    Now, what happens if we have a new, more Socialist Germany? Well, German industry will get less efficient and the GDP of Germany will drop, and one of the main checks on EU Socialist lunacy will be less effective. The Greens have always shown themselves to be shameless political power whores, willing to put out for whatever price political power is charged, with the proviso that at least some of their loony policies are honoured. Last time this Faustian pact was attempted, the price was turning off the German nukes; a similar tactic may be expected in future.

    The important thing for Britain to do at this juncture is to put into place commitments to building more nuclear power stations, and to actually get the ball rolling with commissioning them. This sets out a clear and solid committment to making British electrical power cheap, reliable and dependable. What we absolutely must do is establish in the minds of European industrialists that we have a solid and robust energy supply, and a reasonable and flexible workforce (so no pandering to unions with stupid laws).

    What will follow from this is a net migration of German industry to Britain, and a boost in jobs and prosperity for us. Their loss, our gain.

    • uanime5
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      Give that Germany is a major manufacturing nation despite having strong unions and an inflexible workforce it’s unlikely that your suggestions will attract industrialists to the UK.

      • Edward2
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        Uni
        The workforce in Germany are hard working, involved and enthusiastic for the success of the company they work for, but they are never inflexible.

    • Bazman
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Nuclear power is cheap a more socialist Germany will lead to their own downfall making the game ours? Are you banking on this?

  18. REPay
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I have lived and worked in Germany and I think this is an excellent analysis of the election outcomes. You highlight, as a chief concern, the demise of the FDP. Most British people think they are like the Lib-Dems but they are closer to the Tories (or Orange book liberals – largely defunct now). The CDU are social conservatives (largely) and are generally pro-market but with a strong statist tendency.

    I agree that a coalition with any party other than the FDP massively reduces the pressure for serious reform of the EU. Comfortable, decent people across Europe tend to like the status quo and see the state as an unequivocal good and more government as better. In Germany, the equivocal view of the federal state, still plagued by history means that there is a high degree of tolerance of the EU, providing it does not overly attack their pocket books.

    The depressing thing is that Big Government parties now dominate the three major European economies and the two biggest contributors to the EU, Germany and the UK. Europe will be drifting further into a state heavy decline. Children across Europe will come to see government jobs as the prize – they already do in France where being a fonctionnaire is most parents’ dream for their children.

    As de Tocqueville said, No democracy can prosper once people believe they can vote themselves money from the public purse.

  19. Mike Wilson
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Listening to Ed Miliband’s speech to coference …. wow, surprisingly good.

    If he had the balls to sack Balls, I think I’d vote for him!

    • REPay
      Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      He doesn’t and he won’t. I am afraid Balls is our next chancellor…learn to love him. (Only joking on that last item…every time I see him I think of the destruction Brown and Balls wrought on public finances.)

  20. uanime5
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    German PR, much praised by some on this site, ensured the near 10% who voted FDP and AFD went unrepresented by their parties in Parliament.

    The UK FPTP system didn’t represent the 3.1% who voted UKIP or the 1.9% who voted BNP as neither party got an MP. Also unlike the UK system Merkel won’t get 47.1% of the seats with 36.1% of the votes or 8.8% of the seats despite getting 23.0% of the votes.

    The first is a coalition with the SDP. They will demand a Minimum Wage and other social legislation.

    Why would they demand a minimum wage when Germany already has several system to ensure workers get a fair wage?

    Each German party will have heard from the doorsteps how unpopular using German tax money to bail out other countries still remains. The SDP and Greens want to spend more subsidising and investing in Germany, not in Greece or Cyprus.

    Unless the German public voted strongly for parties that campaigned against paying more money to other eurozone countries it seems that bailing out these countries isn’t that unpopular.

    Reply Your childish wish to disagree with everything written here makes you look silly.
    The SDP have demanded a Minimum Wage so why don’t you ask them?
    I can assure you bailing out Greece is unpopular in Germany and the SDP are very keen not to be blamed for it. Do you read anything about German politics before making these statements?

  21. Jonathan Tee
    Posted September 25, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Angela Merkel’s victory is more an Asculum than a Waterloo.

    The AFD’s critique of the FDP (that they didn’t fulfill the mandate their supporters gave them) seems to have been accepted by FDP supporters. Perhaps there are lessons for a junior coalition partner a little closer to home?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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