The SPD’s participation in Angela Merkel’s coalition governments has coincided with a collapse in its support. The party’s new leaders can renew its appeal
August Bebel, one of the founders of the German SPD, liked to make a robust case for preserving clear blue ideological water between political parties. “If your opponent praises you, beware!” Bebel once said. “But if he gets stuck into you, you are usually on the right way.”
Last weekend a narrow majority of members of one of the world’s oldest democratic parties appeared to judge that sound advice. In electing two candidates from its left flank to lead it, the SPD’s grassroots have called time on a period of cooperation and consensus between the party and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. They may well have relished the furious verdict of conservative commentators, some of whom accused the party of lacking a sense of “national responsibility”, by jeopardising the CDU-SPD coalition government.