Photo by awayukin (Flickr CC)
It's crunch time for you Berliners. Of course I don't mean "you" literally. If you're reading this, you're probably foreign, and you had a little pretend vote a couple of weeks ago. But don't get used to it. You're only allowed a go in the car if you stay in the car park. (Apparently 0.2 percent of you pretend-voted for the NPD, and thereby discovered a new dimension of the democratic Stockholm syndrome.)
No, it's crunch time for us real, German Berliners. We have a choice of Klaus Wowereit and Renate Künast, plus Frank Henkel, a stocky fellow from the CDU who never, ever, wears a tie, even though he clearly hates not wearing ties.
But it doesn't matter how many ties the CDU man loses, because Berliners are going to choose Klaus. Everyone knows this. The political punditocracy knows this. Renate knows this. Tony the tie-less Tory knows this. And the Klaus campaign have known it all along, which is why their posters are all just pictures of his face in cosy black-and-white. A bit like Phil Collins album covers. If the posters had a soundtrack, it would be this, or even this. They say Klaus Wowereit is our spiritual grandad, bouncing us on his knee and gently pushing toffee into our mouths.
The slogan that goes with the poster is “Berlin verstehen,” or “Understanding Berlin”. But instead of "understanding", you have to read: "He might be a bit of a loser, but let's face it, so are you. Why else would you live in... ?" Understanding the comforts of underachieving, more like. Renate's slogan, on the other hand, is "Da müssen wir ran" or: "We have to sort this out". But that's the last thing Berliners want to hear. That's like a school report that says: "Could do better."
Yes, you're right, Renate, we should sort this out, whatever this is, but you see unfortunately we've decided to spend our days idling in second-hand bookshops and eating biscuits. We appreciate your concern, but we prefer to look at a child pushing a hand puppet into a soft old man's face.
Now, in the last week, Wowereit's ingenious campaign has sneaked in the sucker-punch. A new caption has surreptitiously appeared next to the portrait of that familiar, satisfied visage: "If you want Klaus Wowereit, you have to vote SPD." Gah! Forgot about that. You got us, you oily bastards.