• Germany edition
 
'No one moaned about the Germans better'

'No one moaned about the Germans better'

Published: 09 Apr 2013 13:03 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 Apr 2013 13:03 GMT+02:00

Margaret Thatcher would have made an ideal Berlin expat. No one was better at moaning about the Germans. If she'd lived in the city's überhip Neukölln neightbourhood in 2013, it would only have been a matter of time before she had her own English language stand-up show. The preface of this great book on Anglo-German relations, contains all kinds of top nuggets about Maggie's Germanophobia: "If Boris Becker wins again this year, Margaret will be hell in cabinet the next day," one minister is supposed to have said in 1990 as the ginger German went for his fourth Wimbledon crown.

Then there's the lovely anecdote about when Helmut "I-fear-her-like-the-devil-fears-holy-water" Kohl fed Thatcher his favourite German dish: Saumagen. At the end of an awkward meal in which the gigantic chancellor attempted to impress the PM by swallowing a pig's stomach, she whispered to an aide, "That man is so German."

But enough about Thatcher's positive side. What irritated me about yesterday's Thatcher "tributes" is all the talk about how "great" she was. "I didn't like her or agree with her policies," people said, but she "achieved" so much, and had a "vision" that she had the "courage" to realize.

You keep hearing this mendacious bollocks from normal, slightly left-wing people, the kind of people who are otherwise so healthily cynical about other, less entertaining politicians. But being mad, stubborn and zealous is not the same as being great. She was just a political leader, and like all the other boring grey-suited political leaders we have now and that we love to make fun of and then get to dismiss, she was an amoral opportunist who was forced into making ugly compromises.

So she opposed the brutal dictatorships in Eastern Europe even as she supported the brutal dictatorships in South America, and now Poles love her and Chileans hate her. But morally she's no better or worse than what Angela Merkel or David Cameron or François Hollande are doing now – selling weapons to Saudi Arabia even as they condemn Iran and Burma. It's just what you do when you're in charge. Similarly her economic policies, the so-called "Thatcherism" that apparently changed everything, was, as Germaine Greer pointed out in this article for The Guardian, "a thing of strings and patches" that was "put together, as her public persona was, in response to a series of pressures originating in circumstances beyond government control." Moreover, "She never defined an overall strategy, developed no theory of the state, had scant regard for democracy, and no scruples whatsoever. Thatcher's Thatcherism was whatever worked."

As for her troubled relationship with Germany, British and French diplomatic documents released in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (and to say sorry for opposing reunification), showed that her policy towards Europe was shot through with the exact World War II paranoia of the nuttiest UK Independence Party voter. She was basically convinced that a unified Germany would conquer all.

Those documents showed just how strong WWII consciousness was in those crazy days at the end of the 1980s, when Britain, France, and the US routinely still referred to themselves as "the Allies". In January 1990 Thatcher's Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd was moved to give her this blunt advice: "If the people of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic decide freely and democratically in favour of unity, there is no way of stopping that, short of military action."

Elsewhere, Thatcher was quoted by the French ambassador in London describing Kohl as being "capable of anything. He has become a different man. He does not know who he is anymore. He sees himself as the master and is starting to act like it." So much for "helping to end the Cold War," as Angela Merkel and Guido Westerwelle gushed yesterday – she basically thought what most tyro expat comedians think about Germans: they're all Nazis.

This commentary originally appeared on Exberliner's website here. For more of Konrad Werner's columns click here.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth
Photo: DPA

Germany gets €780m EU rebate for poor growth

Germany will get an early Christmas present of around €779 million from the EU, thanks to weaker than expected GDP growth. READ  

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told
Photo: DPA

Stay inside after blast, Ludwigshafen told

It will take several days to find out what caused a massive explosion on Thursday which rocked a town on the Rhine, killing a builder and injuring 26 others. READ  

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'
An NH90 helicopter. Photo: DPA

German helicopter fleet 'not fit for Nato'

Germany's fleet of NH90 helicopters is undergoing engineering checks after one of them suffered a serious engine failure, in the latest blow to the country's military capabilities. READ  

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m
Rainer Schwarz at a court hearing in September into the case. Photo: DPA

Ex-boss of Berlin Airport farce gets €1.2m

The man who was blamed for Berlin's miserable attempt to build a new airport must be paid more than €1 million - after being fired. READ  

Steinmeier challenges UN over Isis gas reports
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Kurds watching the attack on Kobane. Photo: DPA

Steinmeier challenges UN over Isis gas reports

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pressed UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon to bring possible poison gas use by Isis in Iraq before the Security Council. READ  

Spring back in German consumers' step?
Photo: DPA

Spring back in German consumers' step?

Update: Consumer confidence in Germany has stopped falling, as households appear to be no longer fazed by concerns about the economic fallout from geopolitical crises, a new poll found on Friday. READ  

Ludwigshafen explosion kills one, injures 26
An eyewitness captured the moment of the explosion on their phone. Photo: DPA

Ludwigshafen explosion kills one, injures 26

UPDATE: One person has died and 26 others are injured after a huge explosion in Ludwigshafen, western Germany on Thursday. READ  

Germany has just ten Ebola beds
Photo: DPA

Germany has just ten Ebola beds

Doctors at high-level infectious disease clinics say that caring for patients with the Ebola virus is much more intensive than they first thought, meaning they can handle fewer cases at once. READ  

Refugee Crisis
Now Berlin turns to tents to house refugees
A refugee protests on the roof of the former Gerhart Hauptmann School in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Now Berlin turns to tents to house refugees

Berlin has turned to huge tents and shipping containers to shelter growing numbers of refugees. With winter approaching, city politicians have called on the federal government for help. READ  

Clueless Merkel forgets the F-word
Merkel suffers from Wortfindungsstörung at the IT summit in Hamburg. Photo: DPA

Clueless Merkel forgets the F-word

Angela Merkel's government is often criticized for its lack of understanding of all things digital and an appearance by the chancellor in Hamburg, which was supposed to change those perceptions, has only made things worse. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: Huge explosion rocks Ludwigshafen
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
Which high school cliche is your German city?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Storm hits southern Germany
Sponsored Article
An international school unlike any other : School on the Rhine
Photo: Fitzpatrick family
Society
'We still don't know what happened to Matthew'
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: DPA
Politics
UKIP ‘seeks EU pact’ with German satirical party
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
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

3,528
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd