Kohl's rottweiler is called to heel

It was Otto "Fastlips" Hauser's fourth outing before the press yesterday and, contrary to expectations, not the last. The firing squad that despatched his predecessor a mere fortnight ago had run out of either bullets or replacements.

After a meeting of the top leadership of Chancellor Kohl's Christian Democrats, the German government spokesman was reprieved. But not forgiven, no matter how humbly he grovelled yesterday. He promised to "concentrate" henceforth on his job as "government spokesman", instead of acting as the Chancellor's battering ram in an increasingly dirty election campaign.

Mr Hauser, a failed journalist with suave looks hailing not that far from Rottweil, is also a Christian Democrat MP, and has been having problems distinguishing between the two roles. Among the venues he was forced to visit on his knees yesterday was the Bonn press corps, whose members had already tired of Mr Hauser's one-sided party propaganda.

That might seem like a job well done, but Mr Hauser's bosses at the Chancellery did not see it that way. For during his short tenure in the new job, the spokesman had piled indiscretion upon indiscretion, unwittingly revealing his masters' darkest thoughts about the populace.

It is customary at the time of elections to remind voters of the debts they owe their leaders, especially if the government of the day happens to be on the skids. But to spell out the link between voting records and the stations at which the gravy train might call is unusual in a democracy.

Mr Hauser was new to this game and unaware of the unwritten rules. He had been hired for his aggression, and did not want to let his bosses down.

The Christian Democrats are deeply offended that their party, lead by the "Chancellor of German unity", is even less popular in the east than the almost-communist Party of Democratic Socialism. Mr Hauser, naturally, has an opinion on that: "We help reconstruction in the east and then they vote for the left," he fumed last week, drawing parallels in passing between the PDS and the Nazis.

Ossi ingratitude, he suggested, was in danger of "over-taxing the solidarity of West Germans". Solidarity is expressed in the "solidarity surcharge" on German income tax, which pays for all the roads, rail links and new recreation centres for the unemployed being built in the east. Questioning such commitment has so far been taboo.

And remains so, as the hapless spokesman soon discovered. Almost nobody failed to protest against his analysis. The PDS and Jewish groups were mortally insulted by the Nazi analogy. The Free Democrats, Mr Kohl's junior - and often juvenile - coalition partners called for Mr Hauser's sacking. The opposition tried vainly to keep up with the odium Mr Hauser's party colleagues were pouring on him.

The gnashing of teeth in Christian Democrat offices in the east could be heard in Bonn. "Voting behaviour in the east and west should have no impact on the continuation of this work," thundered Kurt Biedenkopf, the influential CDU Prime Minister of Saxony. "Any other road would endanger the success of German unification." Not to mention the success of the CDU, he nearly said.

Wolfgang Kubicki, an executive member of the Free Democrats, admitted that much when he said the infamous remarks would strengthen the PDS in the east at the expense of the conservative coalition. "If Mr Hauser has a jot of self-respect he will resign," Mr Kubicki said. "If not, Kohl must fire him."

Still Mr Hauser kept busy. He lobbed grenades into the Social Democrats' camp, spreading communist innuendo about Gerhad Schroder, the SPD's chancellor- candidate. He even found time to cause offence among the foreign press corps.

Upon being asked to say a few words in English to the English service of Deutsche Welle, the German equivalent of the BBC World Service, Mr Hauser came up with the following well-considered statement: "I speak English very well, but I am the German government spokesman and he speaks in German ... Go get yourself a translator. I don't see why I should answer questions in any other language."

In his defence, Mr Hauser said he was too busy at the time, and yesterday he called Deutsche Welle offering to be interviewed - in English. He also tried to excuse some of his wildest remarks by arguing that they had been made whilst wearing a party hat.

Not everyone in the party is prepared to swallow that line, however. "I am not in favour of an MP being allowed to speak more nonsense than a government spokesman," was how Wolfgang Schauble appraised Mr Hauser's work.

But Mr Hauser must be retained, because to lose two spokesmen in a row so close to September's elections would be seen as carelessness. Meanwhile, through no effort of his own, the campaign he was to galvanise has fallen further into disarray.

As the Christian Democrats were trying to limit the damage yesterday, the dykes were bursting elsewhere. In an interview released ahead of publication, Guido Westerwelle, General Secretary of the Free Democrats, volunteered to be the first to pronounce the political death of Helmut Kohl. "The post-Kohl era has already begun," he told Stern magazine, adding that his party might switch sides and join a Social Democrat-led cabinet after the elections. Poor Mr Hauser must now try to spin that into a "Vote Kohl" message.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'