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.

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

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...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

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'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power