Deep in the Black Forest, a new Vulcan plays the patriot game

German regional elections were shaken up by the anti-immigrant campaign of a Social Democrat, Imre Karacs reports

GERMANY'S answer to John Redwood has much in common with his British clone, apart from the spaced-out look and the incandescent eyes. Dieter Spori also professes a profound disdain for Europe and an admiration for many of the themes championed by the Tory right.

That Germany, the engine of European integration, should spawn a Eurosceptic with electoral potential is surprising enough. That such a person should spring from the loins of the left verges on heresy. Yet there he is, carrying the Social Democrat banner in today's elections to the assembly of Baden-Wurttemberg on an anti-Europe and, crucially, anti-immigrant ticket.

The leader of the SPD in this affluent state, Mr Spori has conducted an unashamedly populist campaign, playing on voters' fears of immigrants and anxiety about monetary union. If thesethemes prove to be vote-winners, then the SPD's national leadership is likely to adopt them in the battle to unseat Helmut Kohl in elections due in 1998. If they fail, the party must go back to the drawing board.

The answer will come tonight, but on the evidence of opinion polls and the atmosphere at hustings, the cumbersome slogan "Stability and jobs take priority now - so postpone monetary union" has only elicited yawns. Far more effective has been Mr Spori's call to halt the immigration of Aussiedler, ethnic Germans from eastern Europe. Every year since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germany has admitted more than 200,000 "resettlers", mostly from the badlands on Russia's fringes. Mr Spori says the country cannot afford them: "As long as unemployment rises, we cannot maintain such a policy."

Statements like that, spiked with inflammatory remarks about these immigrants "walking directly into pensions and dole queues", always get a good reception on the stump. But they have provoked horror among politicians of all hues, including Social Democrats, who suspect Mr Spori of pandering to right- wing extremists.

The man in the centre of this furore is unfazed by accusations that he is bringing beer-hall politics back to the Black Forest. He knows a winner when he sees one. At election rallies Mr Spori now barely talks about Europe, but spends a lot of time discussing immigration. He has scored a few points. The other parties, even the Greens, whose line on immigration would best be described as "the more the merrier", have been forced to concede that the influx of Aussiedler must be curbed. By making this adjustment mid-way through the campaign, they appear to have taken the sting out of the debate, deflecting it back to their own turf.

For the Christian Democrats and Free Democrats that is the economy - rather surprisingly, given that the two parties have governed Germany for 13 years and must, therefore, bear some responsibility for record unemployment of 4.3 million. But Erwin Teufel, Baden-Wurttem- berg's Christian Democrat Prime Minister, dismisses the recession and the steady erosion of the region's industrial base as a natural calamity. "The problem is jobs are disappearing faster than we are creating them," he says.

From his vantage point, a palatial residence overlooking Stuttgart, his state seems like Europe's California, brimming with innovation. It spends a higher proportion of GNP on research and development than Japan and boasts a higher concentration of the industries of the future - software and biotechnology - than almost any other region of the developed world. As for those disappearing jobs, he blames high wages, inflated by some of the heaviest taxes in Europe, and the strength of the Deutschmark.

His analysis is echoed on the other side of the city, at the headquarters of the pride of German industry, Mercedes-Benz. The company, which made a profit of about DM2bn (pounds 880m) last year, would vote tomorrow for the abolition of the swaggering currency which stifles its exports. "We say `Maastricht Now'," enthuses a spokesman.

In these times of uncertainty, Germans are more inclined to put their faith in the trusted institutions of Mercedes-Benz and Chancellor Kohl, who preaches the same gospel, than a left-wing rabble-rouser.

Today's elections in Baden-Wurttemberg, as well as the Rhineland-Palatinate and Schleswig-Holstein, are seen as a mid-term test for Mr Kohl's governing coalition. According to the polls, they will show that the Chancellor has much to fear from traditional Eurocentric Social Democrats, but little from Mr Spori's ilk. In the midst of a recession, and despite the surprises sprung by the opposition, Europe's longest-serving leader continues to dictate Germany's agenda.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits