• Germany edition
 
Scotsman to make history as state premier
Photo: DPA

Scotsman to make history as state premier

Published: 28 Jun 2010 17:49 GMT+02:00
Updated: 28 Jun 2010 17:49 GMT+02:00

Barring an upset when Germany's Federal Assembly elects a new president on Wednesday, Christian Wulff will become the country's next head of state. But it's not only the outgoing premier of the northern German state of Lower Saxony looking to make history this week.

David McAllister, the son of a Scottish father serving with the British army in West Berlin and a German music teacher mother, is preparing to succeed Wulff at the helm of the state government in Hannover.

Not only will the conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) become the first British citizen to hold such high office in Germany, the 39-year-old will also become Germany's youngest ever state premier.

The man known to Lower Saxons as “Mac” spoke to The Local about his roots, British-German relations, immigrants in politics and the talk of his future candidacy for chancellor.

How have your name and heritage affected your career?

Not at all. I have both passports but I’m more or less completely German. I’ve lived in Germany all my life. I did all my school in Germany and my military service in Germany.

I’m aware of my Scottish roots and of course if you have a name like McAllister, you’re reminded every day, because you’ve always got to spell your name, pronounce your name correctly and answer the same questions: Do you wear a kilt? Do you play bagpipes?

But never has it had any effect on my political work in Germany.

How did growing up in West Berlin shape your politics?

Of course the Berlin Wall was a daily issue. As a child you started asking questions: why can’t we travel to the countryside on the weekends? Why is there barbed wire? Why are there automatic machine guns?

My upbringing in West Berlin may have had an impact on my resentment towards communists. I became a member of the CDU when I was 17 – it was a birthday present. My parents said, ‘What do you want for your birthday?’ I said I wanted to become a member of the CDU.

Were they proud or dismayed?

Well, I guess I had a Christian Democratic background. My father was a conservative, though neither of them was involved in party politics.

Did you ever consider British politics?

I’m interested in British politics. I have links to the British conservatives and I’ve met David Cameron a few times.

Are you bothered by the Conservatives’ more eurosceptical positions?

It’s not a secret that the German CDU is perhaps slightly more pro-European. We were sad that the Conservatives left the European parliamentary group. The CDU tried hard to convince them to stay.

Nonetheless, I still strongly believe in close relations between Germany and Britain. The first meetings between Angela Merkel and David Cameron were quite convincing – at least that’s what the chancellor told me.

David Cameron and his team have done very well to modernise the Conservative Party.

Do you have sympathy for their position of maintaining sovereignty and putting a priority on their national interest?

That’s a British position and we have a slightly different position. But in a Europe of 27, you’ve got to respect every position which a nation decides to take.

Some say Chancellor Merkel has in recent months shifted Germany’s priorities from Europe to a more national interest. What do you make of that?

I don’t agree. Angela Merkel is in the tradition of big Europeans in the CDU, from Konrad Adenauer to Helmut Kohl.

Of course Germany is a strong nation within the European Union and is not unimportant in financing the European Union, so it’s just and fair that a German chancellor utters German positions.

Of course Germany has the right to pursue its national interest like any country, but there is the perception that it has in the past sacrificed some of its national interest to put greater emphasis on Europe.

Perhaps Germany is more pro-European Union than other nations because of our tragic history, because of what this country did to others during the terrible 12 years from 1933 to 1945. And that’s why Germany will always have a big responsibility for peace, freedom, international co-operation and European integration, and a big responsibility to Israel.

Can and should there come a time when Germany no longer feels that exceptional responsibility?

There is a consensus in Germany that we are always aware of our history. Mankind will never forget what happened – something so terribly unique. Certain political issues are discussed in a different way than in other countries. That’s understandable. These years from 1933 to 1945 will always be with us.

Has Britain moved on from its impressions of Germany?

I hope so. A lot has changed. What hurts Germans of course – and it’s getting much less common – is what’s said by certain parts of the British media. It’s always the same, such as when Germany plays England in the football. You know what (British tabloid) The Sun gets up to.

The longer the war is over, certain stereotypes hopefully disappear. A lot of young Britons visit Berlin and are impressed by the city, the nightlife.

And tens of thousands of British people have been in Germany with the British forces. They go back home and they say what it’s really like in Germany. I strongly believe in the German-British friendship.

You wrote to David Cameron asking him to clarify the conservatives’ position on the future of British bases in Lower Saxony. Have you had an answer?

He answered and explained they were having a closer look at it. (Cameron said he appreciated the value to local communities of British bases in Germany and promised to consult with relevant German governments but warned that “no option for (defence) reform – no matter how radical – is off the table.” -Eds.)

The British forces are very welcome guests in our country. They are friends and they are important to us economically.

There’s an impression that German politics lacks diversity, especially on the conservative side. Is that well-founded?

I wouldn’t say lacking on the conservative side – perhaps lacking in general. Things have changed in the last years, though all political parties can do more.

We now have quite a number of leading politicians with different ethnic backgrounds in all parties.

Since our citizenship law was modernised a few years ago, we have more immigrants who want to become German citizens, so they can participate in German politics. The German citizenship law as we have it now is a good compromise. (The citizenship law introduced in 2000 makes it easier for immigrants to become German citizens but still requires non-Europeans to renounce their existing citizenship. -Eds.)

You’re obviously proud of your Scottish roots – you famously got married in a kilt. Do you have sympathy for someone of, say, Turkish ancestry who wants dual citizenship to maintain some sort of Turkish identity?

I got married in a kilt because it was a family tradition. In public I’ve worn my kilt twice: at my own wedding and at the wedding of my cousin Victoria a few years ago in Edinburgh.

Dual citizenship is possible but not for everyone. There are no problems or complications at all between EU members, for example Germany and Britain. Personally my British passport and citizenship has no real meaning for me; I haven’t used my British passport in the last 10 or 15 years. I guess it’s even expired by now.

Yet you maintain your British citizenship. Does it make you feel any less German?

No.

You said that there was no conflict between German and British citizenship. Do you feel there could be conflict between say German and Turkish citizenship in terms of a person’s values?

To be honest, I think so, yes. To integrate people with different ethnic backgrounds is the most important domestic issue in this country.

We want to convince people who come here and want to stay here, to take part in society and become German citizens as the end of a successful integration process.

We’ve got to do more, especially when it comes to demographics. We cannot afford 30 percent of young Turkish males leaving school without a degree.

Is dual citizenship an obstacle to any of those things?

No, but it isn’t a tool to solve them either. People who come here, who want to stay, who want to work, are all very, very welcome.

My view is that a huge majority of Muslims are an active part of German society, but there is a very small minority with whom we have problems. This small minority could be a threat to the way we live, so it’s important to strengthen the majority.

A few weeks ago, Mrs. Aygül Özkan became the first Muslim German in public office, when she became the minister for social affairs here in Lower Saxony.

She did of course make headlines before she was sworn in for the remarks she made about removing crucifixes from state schools.

Aygül Özkan didn’t say it as a Muslim but as a citizen of Hamburg. In Hamburg there are no crucifixes in public schools.

But in certain parts of Lower Saxony where we have a strong Catholic majority, you still have crucifixes in schools. Our position is, as long as nobody complains, the crucifixes can stay in those public schools where it’s a tradition and where the people want it.

If someone came and said they wanted the crucifix banned, then there would be a public debate.

So if someone did complain, what position would you take?

The best thing is to sort that out in the school – through the parents, pupils and teachers – and find a good compromise. That’s how we do it in Lower Saxony.

And now to some general questions. Who are your political heroes?

Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor after the war, who rebuilt Germany, introduced a social market system, and led us into the European community and NATO. I think that we Germans have so much to thank Adenauer for.

If there were one thing that you could change about the German mindset, what would it be?

It’s a wonderful country with wonderful people. Sometimes, just a tiny little sense of British humour could do this country well. I like to use elements of humour, especially irony, in political debates. I had to find out that a lot of my competitors understand irony, but not everyone.

Has it gotten you into trouble?

Well, the British are good at taking the mickey out of themselves. Not every German likes to take the mickey out of himself.

One last question: Do you want to be chancellor?

Angela Merkel is a very successful chancellor; she’s my party leader and I strongly back her positions and her person. The question is moot.

It’s not moot. You have a long future ahead of you.

I’ve got the great honour to become prime minister of Lower Saxony, perhaps, on July 1. As my staff told me, I’ll be the youngest (state premier) in Germany, the youngest prime minister in the history of Lower Saxony, and possibly – and I’m not sure if this is true – the youngest prime minister ever in Germany.

I know what a big responsibility that is. There are so many others who are capable and willing to become chancellor. I’ll stick to Hannover.

I still haven’t heard the word, ‘No.’”

Honestly, I’m a state politician. There are so many MPs in Berlin who are hoping they’ll be asked one day, so why don’t you ask them for now? Lower Saxony is a wonderful place and I’ve got a lot to do. Der Spiegel last week wrote that I’m one of the candidates for the time after Merkel. I don’t know why they wrote that.

Gerhard Schröder was premier of Lower Saxony. Christian Wulff looks set to become president. You’re coming from a fine lineage.

Yes, but you can’t have all positions filled from Lower Saxony. We need Bavarians, Hessians, people from everywhere.

David Wroe (david.wroe@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

17:43 June 28, 2010 by semi
wow, a Scottish conservative, so they do exist.
19:18 June 28, 2010 by JohnnesKönig
I hope he will have the opportunity to serve Niedersachsen!

Germany has paid for the mistakes of the past. How long does the world expect us to pay for the sins of the fathers?
20:33 June 28, 2010 by mikecowler
I have dual nationality but have been brought up in the uk since the age of 2. German was my first language, until bullied at school in England and branded a Nazi at the age of 5 in 1967-68..i would like to go home..to Niedersachsen..but work for Deutsche Bahn..
01:47 June 29, 2010 by wxman
We've got you beat. We have a Kenyan for president.
09:27 June 29, 2010 by Flying Scot
Im a Scot and would disagree with him,the Scots do not hold that old view of Germany i look at them as equal.The English certainly hold onto that old view,because they read the english sun,also the english arent very good at history they cant seem to work out that English history along with Scottish history stopped in 1707! but i wont hold it against them.
04:14 June 30, 2010 by vonSchwerin
I guess if a Scottish Tory wants to have a political career, he had better move to the Continent.
22:17 July 5, 2010 by ReaderX
"My upbringing in West Berlin had an impact on my resentment of Communists"

Well my upbringing in the U.S. had and impact on my resentment of them too.
02:35 July 6, 2010 by wenddiver
I grew up on Planet Earth, so I resent Communism too, Probably, because they are the biggest mass murderers of the 20th century.
06:55 July 10, 2010 by dinomechery
Communists must be wiped out from the earth.they are real scumbags.
17:27 July 14, 2010 by Bishopbayern
Great to have a scot in Germany leading the way. i hope he makes it to the very top.
21:05 July 17, 2010 by BobJ
Great to finally see a Scots Conservative Prime Minister. It's a bit of an upheaval, though, having to move a thousand kilometres to Saxony to experience what it feels like. I can't see a similar situation arising here in Scotland in the foreseeable future.
Today's headlines
Hamburg could take infected Ebola doctor
Liberian health workers in protective clothing bury an Ebola victim in early July. Photo: DPA

Hamburg could take infected Ebola doctor

A World Health Organisation doctor infected with the deadly Ebola virus while trying to help stop it spreading through West Africa could travel to a Hamburg clinic for treatment. READ  

Germany evacuates embassy in Libya
Black smoke billowing from a storage depot of fuel that was hit by a rocket the night before near the airport in Tripoli on July 28th. Photo: EPA/SABRI ELMHEDWI

Germany evacuates embassy in Libya

UPDATE: Germany pulled its embassy staff out of Tripoli on Monday, a day after advising all its citizens currently in Libya to leave the strife-torn country immediately. READ  

Police kill fleeing drug dealer with bad shot
Photo: DPA

Police kill fleeing drug dealer with bad shot

A policeman is being investigated for manslaughter after he shot a fleeing man, wanted on drug charges, in the back of the head. The officer claimed he had aimed for his legs. READ  

Germany's students fail to graduate in time
A German student protests against the Bologna reforms in Mainz in 2010. Photo: DPA

Germany's students fail to graduate in time

Leaked figures show the average student in Germany still takes around four years to complete a bachelor's degree, suggesting controversial reforms to higher education have so far failed to cut down the number of Germany's perpetual students. READ  

Lawmakers earn millions on the side
Bavarian lawmaker Peter Gauweiler made almost €1 million on the side. Photo: DPA

Lawmakers earn millions on the side

A quarter of all politicians in the German Parliament are making additional income on top of their parliamentary salary, a transparency group said on Saturday. Thirteen lawmakers have made more than €100,000 in the last few months. READ  

Schweinsteiger sorry for holiday video
Schweinsteiger has apologized after the video of him on holiday was posted on YouTube. Photo: DPA

Schweinsteiger sorry for holiday video

UPDATE: Germany’s World Cup winning star Bastian Schweinsteiger has apologized after a video emerged of him on YouTube leading a chant insulting Borussia Dortmund supporters and players. READ  

Sale stopped of oldest message in a bottle
Konrad Fischer with his find. Photo: DPA

Sale stopped of oldest message in a bottle

UPDATE: A fisherman who found the world's oldest message in a bottle tossed into the sea in northern Germany has failed in his attempt to sell it on eBay. The auction was stopped at the last minute. READ  

JobTalk Germany
Job seekers frustrated with application wait
Photo: DPA

Job seekers frustrated with application wait

A new YouGov survey shows job seekers in Germany are exasperated with the application process, complaining about poor job adverts and slow responses. Recruiters agree. READ  

Germany's biggest tabloid attacks Islam
Bild editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann said there was no room for such comments in Bild publications but stopped short of an apology. Photo: DPA

Germany's biggest tabloid attacks Islam

Germany's biggest newspaper, Bild, was forced to climb down over the weekend after a highly critical and controversial comment piece which attacked Islam as a barrier to integration appeared in its Sunday sister paper. READ  

Weather warning for stormy Berlin
Photo: DPA

Weather warning for stormy Berlin

Forecasters have put out a weather warning for Berlin and much of Brandenburg with thunderstorms and heavy rain set to bring an end to the heatwave. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825
Culture
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
instagram.com/gotzemario
Gallery
Germany's World Cup stars share their holiday photos
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Sport
Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home
Photo: DPA
National
Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: DPA
Politics
View from Germany: 'Nobody will win in an economic war with Russia'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,219
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd