• 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
US WWII bomb forces 11,000 from homes
The area of the town centre evacuated. Photo: Lüneberg Stadt

US WWII bomb forces 11,000 from homes

Thousands of people in the centre of an historic town in central Germany had to leave their homes late on Wednesday evening after a 250kg bomb was found. READ  

Who is listening to Berlin's music?
Photo: DPA

Who is listening to Berlin's music?

A study by music-streaming service Spotify has revealed the global reach of Berlin-born music, with genres originating in the capital finding a loyal audience in some unlikely places. READ  

Champions League
Boateng delivers Bayern 1-0 win over Man City
Jerome Boateng with Bayern trainer Pep Guardiola on Wednesday night. Photo: DPA

Boateng delivers Bayern 1-0 win over Man City

A superb strike by Jerome Boateng with a minute remaining earned Bayern Munich a dramatic 1-0 victory against Manchester City in their opening Champions League game of the season on Wednesday. Chelsea, meanwhile, were held by Schalke. READ  

Merkel promises help for Liberia in Ebola fight
A man walks past an Ebola information mural in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: DPA

Merkel promises help for Liberia in Ebola fight

Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised that Germany will send help to Liberia to tackle the Ebola crisis in response to a personal appeal by the country's president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. READ  

Cabinet clamps down on child image possession
Justice Minister Heiko Maas. Photo: DPA

Cabinet clamps down on child image possession

People caught in possession of indecent images of children will face tougher prison sentences, the government announced on Wednesday. READ  

The Local List
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again

Ten German words you'll never want to hear again

There are some German words which we'd rather were never invented. From the almost unpronounceable to the sheer pointless, The Local List has identified ten of the worst words in the German language. Do you agree? READ  

Investigators offer $30m reward for MH17 clues
Investigators at the MH17 crash site. Photo: DPA

Investigators offer $30m reward for MH17 clues

Anonymous backers have armed a German private detective with a $30-million war chest to find out who shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine. READ  

13,000 police will catch speeders on Thursday
This sight will be familiar to drivers on Thursday. Photo: DPA

13,000 police will catch speeders on Thursday

UPDATE: Drivers across Germany will be on the lookout for police holding radar guns on Thursday, as 13,000 officers take to the streets to crack down on speeding. READ  

Oktoberfest 2014
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest traditions
Photo: DPA

Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest traditions

The world's biggest beer festival opens in Munich on Saturday. Running until October 5th, Oktoberfest is expected to attract more than six million visitors, drinking seven million litres of beer. Here's the first of The Local's four-part guide to the festival, starting with leathery traditions. READ  

Climber, 77, falls 80 metres to his death
The Alps near Innsbruck. Photo: DPA

Climber, 77, falls 80 metres to his death

A 77-year-old German climber fell 80 metres to his death in an Alpine ravine on Tuesday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Education
German universities tumble in global rankings
Photo: DPA
Tech
Netflix launches in Germany (in English too)
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Photo: DPA
Politics
These men want to be the next mayor of Berlin
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Berlin spy station sees tourism boom
Photo: DPA/ESA
Tech
VIDEO: How one German astronaut sees Earth
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Photo: DPA
Politics
Are Germans right to want cooler relations with USA?
Photo: Bayernpartei/DPA
Politics
Why some Bavarians want a Scottish 'Yes'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
12 things to do in Berlin for less than a latte
Photo: Facebook
National
Bavarian waiter breaks beer-carrying record
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
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

3,339
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd