The Corner

Interesting Spin…

…on the German elections from the Guardian. Could the results scupper the prospects for reform in France? Quite possibly, it seems…

Nicolas Sarkozy, the ambitious rightwing interior minister busy laying the ground for a reform or bust presidential bid based on the need for a “clean break” with two decades of soft conservatism under Jacques Chirac, welcomed Ms Merkel with open arms in Paris earlier this year…

But for the rival Chirac camp, headed by the suave and increasingly popular prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, Ms Merkel’s score – and her slump in the polls as soon as she started talking radical tax reform – showed that a large chunk of the German electorate was simply terrified by her version of a “clean break” with the past. “The Germans do not want their social model dismantled,” said one moderate centre-right UMP senator, Josselin de Rohan. The defence minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, said the Germans had voted “in such a way as not to permit the introduction of a 100% liberal economic and social model”. Catherine Colonna, the European affairs minister, who is very close to Mr Chirac, said the lesson was plainly “a need to think about the way in which a country should push reforms through … the way in which certain reforms are accepted”.

Sarkozy himself is more of a Chirac-style opportunist than many in this country seem to believe. Expect backtracking from him too.

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