Lucky Schroder revels in new unity

GERHARD SCHRoDER, Chancellor of Germany, made peace with his fractious party yesterday, uniting them behind a deliberately vague programme that steered a cautious course between left and right.

He even received a standing ovation at the end of his keynote speech at the Social Democrat conference, although about one in five delegates remained seated and clapped with little enthusiasm. In the election for party chairman, where Mr Schroder was unopposed, he received a lukewarm 86 per cent of votes.

However, the party seemed at ease with itself for once. Unemployment figures released yesterday showed that the dole queues are at last shortening as the economy picks up. And Social Democrats are delighted by the spectacle of their opponents, the Christian Democrats, falling into ever deeper disarray.

Mr Schroder exploited the opposition's discomfort to the full, milking his audience for its warmest applause by rounding on Helmut Kohl. In 16 years of government Mr Kohl had neglected the economy and "restructured only the party accounts," said Mr Schroder, referring to the party funding scandal hitting the Christian Democrats. "He would rather make personal backroom deals than abide by the law," said Mr Schroder.

It was the strongest comment yet from the government on Mr Kohl's financial dealings, whose latest trail leads to anonymous Swiss bank accounts. Although the ex-chancellor has yet to be formally charged, prosecutors in Bonn are to decide later this week whether to open proceedings against him personally for embezzlement.

By contrast, Mr Schroder is enjoying a renaissance. Yesterday's conference was the left's best opportunity to mount an attack, but the Chancellor has learnt not to provoke them. He has injected more compassion into his rhetoric, peppering yesterday's address with side-swipes at millionaires and greedy multinational companies.

The phrase "social justice" got more than 20 mentions, the dark threat of globalisation was evoked, and Mr Schroderasserted his right to intervene in the affairs of bankrupt private companies - exactly as he did last month when construction group Holzmann went under and the Chancellor rushed to its rescue with taxpayers' money. His actions shocked the business community but were acclaimed by Social Democrats, and they pushed up his personal poll rating in the nation.

His leftist credentials thus established, it was time yesterday to court the party's pragmatic wing again. He threw it covert messages of support as he charted a third way between Blairism and the ideas expressed by the guest of honour, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin of France. Social justice, Mr Schroder said, had to be linked to innovation. "We will get justice when we have growth and dynamism."

Tony Blair got a warm mention, pleasing a Labour emissary no end. "When it comes to fairness and equality, it really is as Tony Blair has phrased it," Mr Schroder said. "We are not about equal earnings. We are about real equality - equal chances for fulfilment, equal access to knowledge, equal opportunities to flourish."

This synthesis of the old and the new should help the party to lay ideological battles aside for the moment. These days the comrades have little time for infighting.

The conference continues today, but the real show is elsewhere; the Christian Democrats hold another emergency meeting to find out just where Mr Kohl had stashed away whose loot. Mr Schroder is a very lucky politician.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Digital Content Officer - Central London - £33,000

£28000 - £33000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive (Digital Marketi...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform