Photo courtesy of the European People's Party (Flickr CC)
Everyone loves Angela Merkel. Everyone. I mean some of us might not love her as much as ZDF anchor Udo van Kampen, who, to mark the end of her sixth decade on the planet, offered the Bundeskanzlerin his quivering tanned body at a press conference yesterday, but we all love her a little bit. Even cynical Exberliner bloggers can't stay mad at Merkel. And it's not just "admiration" for being such a clever, non-stick politician. People don't care about that. They actually like her, as a person – they empathize with her, they feel safe and nurtured in her womb-hand thing.
It's baffling. Eight and a half years she has now been the head of government, and her popularity ratings have never wobbled. It's preternatural. She's Dorian Gray. Of course, part of the reason for that is that she really hasn't done much at all to test her people's faith. Can you think of a major thing that her three governments have changed in the country since 2005?
She's got rid of conscription, but that was cos she had to. She introduced the minimum wage, but that was only cos she had to join a coalition with the SPD. Here's another question: can you name one of her opinions? I don't mean ideological beliefs – you don't have to pinpoint a Thatcher-like faith in the moral power of individual enterprise or anything – can you just name one of her opinions on any issue? Gay marriage? Burqas? Most things, like the women's quota, or gay marriage, she changes her mind on – but it's never a u-turn. It's just a vague shift. What does she actually think?
We know she's pro-European Union, I suppose, but only by the austerity measures she helped impose on other countries that supposedly saved it. But what happened to the anti-unemployment drive she was supposed to spearhead in Europe? And we know that she doesn't mind selling an awful lot of weapons to Israel, Saudi despots, and the brutal military leaders of Egypt. Her government has increased Germany's arms exports to non-NATO countries more than any chancellor ever, so you could suggest she's partly to blame for the carnage that's going on around the world at the moment, but who'd be heartless enough to say that? And anyway we only know these things from the results of her actions, or from what her ministers say, but never from her. She's pure.
One of the most baffling things about the people's love for Merkel is the universal belief that she is incapable of pretending, that everything she does is authentic. That she has no PR advisers. Like her love of football. Was she always in the stands at Hansa Rostock when she was Helmut Kohl's environment minister back in the 1990s? I don't reckon so, but still everyone is convinced that her appearance on the other side of the world next to massively popular sweat-soaked young athletes with millions of Twitter followers is born of her own enthusiasm for footie. If you ask me, there was something slightly demeaning and patronizing about her World Cup selfies with the German team. But I feel bad saying it now. Jesus, Konrad, it was her birthday yesterday.