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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > September 2017 > Safety first

Safety first

She sells her strengths abroad, but weaponises her blandness at home. The world is deluded if it thinks Angela Merkel is the salvation of the liberal order
© AFP/GETTY IMAGES

“I n parliamentary work, ‘standstill’ may appear agonising, yet for voters it doesn’t hold any horror in times of crisis,” the late German journalist Roger Willemsen wrote after witnessing a Bundestag debate in March 2013, six months before the last general election in Germany. “The [Social Democratic] opposition may have found the government’s blockades a hard nut to crack—citizens however desire above all to maintain the status quo. For them, the inertia… isn’t an argument for voting anyone out. ‘Standstill’ simply has too good a reputation these days.”

The subsequent September 2013 election gave Angela Merkel her third term as Chancellor. As it stands, Willemsen’s observation could just as easily apply this summer. Then as now, Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) alliance was the largest party in a coalition government. Some ministers have changed and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), then the main opposition party, is today part of the government—not that it makes much of a difference. Then, the crisis Germans worried about was of the euro and Greek debt; today, it is of refugees and a shifting world order. Then, the man prodding Germans with his visions for the future with signs of increasing desperation, was Peer Steinbrück; today, it is Martin Schulz. We will be forgiven for mixing them up in 10 years’ time. In Germany, 24th September 2017 could just as well be called Groundhog Election Day.

In much of the west, voters have been keen to break things— or at the very least break with the past. The UK has voted to leave the European Union and is dallying with the idea of a radical socialist prime minister; France has given its established parties a good kicking; and the US, of course, has decided to administer that kicking to not only to its own establishment but to the world as a whole, by electing Donald Trump. The Polish, Hungarian and Turkish regimes are moving to undermine liberal democracy. Countries and communities are ever-more polarised.

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In Prospect’s September issue: Emily Andrews, Andrew Brown and Tom Clark assess what the reign of King Charles might look like. Andrews profiles Charles and questions whether he will be able to keep his opinions to himself. Andrew Brown look at the coronation—the world is a very different place now from when the last one took place. Tom Clark explains the results of our poll, conducted by ICM, into people’s view on Charles taking the throne—it turns out fewer people than ever before want the heir to become our monarch. Elsewhere in the issue Nick Cohen details his battle with the bottle and shows that Britain has a problem with drink that it doesn’t want to talk about, and Toni Morrison Also in this issue: Toni Morrison on America’s stubborn race divide, Brian Klaas on how Europe should deal with Trump and Jessica Abrahams explains everything you need to know about fourth wave feminism
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