The broadcaster Andrew Marr has described Angela Merkel as the “perfect leader” and claimed that British voters would never elect a female Prime Minister whose public image was considered similarly boring.
Mr Marr, who has returned to the BBC after recovering from a severe stroke, expressed his admiration for the “dour” German Chancellor in a Radio Times interview.
“I really like that she (Merkel) doesn’t care about her image,” Mr Marr said. “When she met Tony Blair she told him, ‘I’ve got no charisma and no leadership qualities, by the way.’ We could never elect someone like this in our country – I mean look at how Theresa May has struggled in our system, even she was attacked for being dour and not sexy enough!”
Mr Marr’s comments follow the row sparked by the editor of Newsnight, Ian Katz, who called the Labour MP Rachel Reeves, “boring, snoring” in a tweet. The Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, tipped as a future Labour leadership candidate, said she felt “humiliated” by the comment which she felt could define her public image.
Theresa May, a bookies’ favourite to fight a future Conservative leadership against Boris Johnson, shrugged off a perception that she is “boring”. “For women in politics or business, the thing is to be yourself,” the Home Secretary said recently.
Mr Marr’s new documentary, The Making of Merkel, traces the politician’s life from her upbringing in East Germany and will be screened on BBC2 this Saturday, the day before German voters go to the polls.
He said: “If you are looking for the most powerful EU leader to be a deal maker, then she is the perfect leader. The more you talk to people about her the more you like her. I warmed to her enormously.”
He praised the German Chancellor’s imposition of tough austerity measures on Greece. “If you are going to persuade German and EU tax payers to make this huge transfer then it would have been impossible without demanding austerity and reform. If you said ‘no, no, no, we are not going to impose that kind of austerity’, there could have been no bailout, and then Greece would have had to leave the Euro. I can’t quite see a scenario in which she would have acted differently.”
The broadcaster knew little of his subject beforehand. “It was an education for me as well. Actually who is this person? Is she really Bismarck in drag? No, she ain’t.”
Mr Marr added that he was envious of the stability which Germany’s federal system of Government had provided. “I am jealous of German politics,” he said. “We keep being told it’s stodgy and dour, with all these different layers of power. But what’s the end product? They’ve been able to devise 30- to 40-year industrial strategies that have worked. They’re the strongest economy in Europe – and they managed to do it on top of bailing out eastern Germany.”
Mr Marr, 54, has returned to his Sunday morning political programme after months of intensive physical therapy, following his stroke in January. He now walks with a stick, and wears a special shoe designed to disguise a brace on his ankle that he operates with a remote-control device whenever he stands and walks. He still has no use of his left arm.
“You definitely see the world differently,” he said. “You move more slowly. You suck up experiences more intensely and you live the day more. And you’re much more aware of all the people all around us who have got really, really difficult disabilities who are looking after their parents, perhaps, and who frankly most of the time, like most people, I simply didn’t see.”