Weary Kohl welcomed as he comes home
Saturday 12 September 1998
Home is Europaplatz, just a square wedged between a flyover and a nondescript town hall. Home is Ludwigshafen, a concrete sprawl of tower blocks, chemical plants and spaghetti junctions. It is not much to look at, but it is from here the Chancellor hails; where he grew up; got his first job, and met his wife Hannelore. It is to Ludwigshafen that he will return at the end of his distinguished career, possibly in two weeks' time.
But now he had come back to plead for one more chance, and to rest a little on his gruelling general election campaign trail. Everywhere he has been in the past few weeks, he was met with boos, demonstrators bearing hostile ghetto-blasters, and people marching with red flags.
He had just flown in by helicopter from Trier, former capital of Gaul and birthplace of Karl Marx. These days, Trier is a conservative bastion, but for symbolic reasons, Marxists feel duty-bound to make a stand, especially at Kohl's Christian Democrat party rally.
"Only in Cuba will you find the red flag flying these days," he declares in the middle of a diatribe against Communism, aimed obliquely at his Social Democrat opponent, Gerhard Schroder. Right on cue, two banners bearing the hammer and sickle shoot up. "I apologise, there are also two in Trier," Mr Kohl says, to great merriment from his supporters.
For 50 years, German politicians have been getting elected on the promise of "no experiments", and Mr Kohl has no intention of departing from the proven script. He alone can be relied on for leaving things as they are, he tells the people of Trier. "Beware of imitations," warn the Christian Democrat posters, in a dig at Mr Schroder's perceived chameleon-like qualities.
Then, on home. Mr Kohl's visit to Ludwigshafen could not have come at a better time.
The town council, run by a Red-Green coalition, is in turmoil. So he likens the goings-on to the "politics of a lunatic asylum''.
His homespun homily is full of local anecdotes, and infused with the values that his town-folk can recognise. "Anyone who says you can earn more by working less is deceiving you," he says. The Chancellor laments the high unemployment rate, but says the Government alone cannot create jobs. He defends the pension reform - by the outgoing parliament - which will cut pensions early in the next century as Germans on average are getting older, and "the coffers are running empty". Mr Schroder, he points out, has promised to reverse the tax reform, but has failed to explain how his government would cope with the demographic crisis.
"It was a good speech, brilliant in rhetoric," pronounces Uwe Beyer, as he applauds the Chancellor's evening performance. "But, whether he has the right policies, we'll have to see." Mr Beyer, 20 and voting in a general election for the first time, remains undecided. "I think I'm more likely to vote Red-Green," he says.
Gerd Brinzig, a middle-aged man, has no doubts: "It was a good, professional speech; polemical but positive."
Mr Kohl's local constituency is a marginal, though, thanks to the German electoral system, but there is no danger of Mr Kohl being bounced out of the Bundestag.
However, nationwide, his Christian Democrats still lag between 3 and 6 per cent behind the Social Democrats, with only two weeks of campaigning left.
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
Ball pool for adults opens in London
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...
£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...
£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...