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McAllister: 'I'm happy to be Merkel's Mac'

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Photo: DPA
08:06 CET+01:00
Not many German state premiers receive visits from UK royalty, but David McAllister is special because he's half Scottish and a British subject. This Sunday our German of the Week faces the voters in Lower Saxony's election.

Whether meeting Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie as they tour northern Germany this week will help McAllister's polling results remains to be seen. He does, however, embody the cross-over between the United Kingdom and Germany that the princesses are being sent over in a red-white-and-blue Mini to promote.

McAllister, the son of a Scottish father serving with the British army in West Berlin and a German music teacher mother, he is a rising star in Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Often called simply "Mac," he has politely answered more than his fair share of questions about Scottish clichés while climbing through the ranks of German politics to lead the fourth most populous state in the country.

"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?" he told The Local in 2010.

Lower Saxony has frequently been a springboard to higher callings in German politics. It's where former Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder launched his national career, while McAllister's immediate predecessor Christian Wulff left office to become federal president.

McAllister is young, he turned 42 last week, and is often spoken of in admiring tones, with one British newspaper getting carried away claiming he was being groomed for the top political job in Germany. While he says he is happy in Lower Saxony, he is part of the new generation of Christian Democratic politicians too young to have been subject to Angela Merkel's earlier culls of party colleagues who might challenge her leadership.

This weekend is the first real test of McAllister's political standing in his home state - he has not won a state election before, gaining office in 2010 when Wulff was kicked upstairs to the presidency.

McAllister has portrayed himself as upbeat in the last few days before the election, repeating his slogan, "That's how we're doing it" and encouraging supporters to declare "I'm a Mac."

A moderate conservative in Merkel's mould, McAllister has brought his Scottish heritage to the fore throughout the campaign, focusing on his attempts to get state finances under control.

"Scots are said to be thrifty," he told Die Zeit newspaper this week. "Solid finances; that is exactly the policy which the CDU and I personally follow."

Yet he has consistently refused to be drawn on the subject of Scottish independence - reverting immediately to being a German politician who does not comment on the domestic matters of other countries.

As the election campaign nears its climax, his party sits far ahead of the struggling Social Democrats. But he could still lose his job if his coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), fail to win seats in the state parliament on Sunday.

The weakness of the FDP could, in fact, end up helping the Social Democrats and their preferred coalition partners, the Greens, tip McAllister out of office.

Yet in the Die Zeit interview he said he remained determined to campaign only for the CDU - and not urge voters to split their votes to give the FDP a hand, even though he knows he needs them to improve their performance.

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And McAllister is unlikely to disappear from the political stage even if he loses the premiership on Sunday. On a national level Merkel seems set to be the head of the next federal government after September's general election - and it would be a surprise if she were to leave him out in the cold.

"Recently a newspaper wrote [I was] Merkel's Mac," he told Die Zeit. "I think that's great. I'm happy to be Merkel's Mac."

Hannah Cleaver

hannah.cleaver@thelocal.com

twitter.com/hannahcleaver2

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