Former economics minister turns his back on his party

Wolfgang Clement, former economics minister under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, has left the Social Democratic Party after being accused of disloyalty and for what he says is the SPD's flirtation with the post-communist Left Party.

Former economics minister turns his back on his party
Photo: DPA

Clement, 68, said in statement on Tuesday that his leaving the party after 38 years was based on an SPD arbitration committee’s decision to reprimand him because of critical comments he made in January about party colleague Andrea Ypsilanti. She was in a tough race in the state of Hessen, but Clement indirectly called for people not to vote for her citing his disagreement with her – and the SPD’s – energy policy.

Earlier this year, the party had decided to expel him, but reversed that decision. Still, Clement said even a reprimand went too far and infringed on his “basic right of freedom of opinion.“

The former journalist also said he did not agree with the direction the party was headed, particularly its possible cooperation with the Left Party, the successor party to East Germany’s communists. Clement said the SPD leadership had failed to distance itself from the far-left group, and “even encouraged cooperation with this party – in the states – even though its entanglement with the Stasi,” East Germany’s feared secret police, “is evident.”

Clement said the SPD’s economic policies were leading to the “de-industrialization” of Germany.

The resignation comes at a time of turmoil for the party. Internecine squabbling and an unfocused message, not to mention the upstart Left Party which has drained away support for its left-wing, have weakened the party considerably. The SPD is now gearing up to face Chancellor Angela Merkel in federal elections next fall. The party has nominated current Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to be her challenger.

Clement has long been reluctant to toe the party line and has been the centre of controversy before. From 2002 to 2005, he was Chancellor Gerhard Schröders economics and labor minister and charged with implementing the “Agenda 2010” labor and welfare reforms. They remain deeply unpopular, even among Social Democrats.

Clement left the government when Chancellor Merkel came to power in 2005 and took a job on the supervisory board of energy utility RWE. The company wants Germany to reverse its plan to phase out nuclear energy, a central pillar of SPD policy.

SPD Chairman Franz Müntefering said Tuesday he regretted Clement’s exit, calling it a “shame,” but saying it would not diminish his contributions to the Social Democratic ideal.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU called the decision a setback for the SPD leadership.

“It says a lot about the leadership and general health of the SPD when someone like Wolfgang Clement, who is a Social Democrat through and through, turns his back on his own party,” CDU General Secretary Ronald Pofalla said.


Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday made a push for equal pay for men and women international footballers after Germany's successful run at the recent European Championships.

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

“My position on this is clear,” Scholz said after a meeting with the German Football Association (DFB) to discuss the issue.

“We talked about how we can continue to help more girls and women get excited about football. Of course, the wages at such tournaments play a major role in this,” he said.

“That’s why it makes sense to discuss equal pay. I made the suggestion and I’m very grateful that there is a willingness to discuss this issue.”

Germany scored their biggest major tournament success since 2015 at this year’s European Championships, losing to England in the final at Wembley.

Scholz attended the final and also supported the women’s team by tweeting: “It’s 2022, and women and men should be paid equally. This also applies to sport, especially for national teams.”

READ ALSO: Scholz to cheer on Germany at Euro 2022 final

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP headquarters on Tuesday.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP (German Football Association) headquarters on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany’s women would have received €60,000 each if they had triumphed at the tournament, while the men would have received €400,000 each had they prevailed at the Euros last year.

Bernd Neuendorf, president of the DFB, said he understood the argument “that equal work and success should also have the same value”.

“I’m willing to discuss in our committees whether our payment system is up to date or whether it should be adjusted,” he said.

Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg suggested that international footballers’ wages could be evened out by paying women more and men less.

Officials must now “follow up with action” after the meeting, she said in an interview with the ZDF broadcaster.

Scholz said he was “very, very proud” of the women’s performance at the Euros, even if “it didn’t quite work out”.

“I hope it will have a long-lasting effect, not only on the players themselves… but also on football in Germany,” he said.