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Are the Germans the new Brits?

SPD leader Olaf Scholz on the campaign trail in August. Omer Messinger/Getty Images

When Margaret Thatcher and her advisers discussed Germany’s national character ahead of reunification in 1990, they settled on “angst, aggressiveness, assertiveness, bullying, egotism, inferiority complex, sentimentality”. Thirty years on, says Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times, these stereotypes “have completely reversed”. While the US and the UK are beset by “angst” and “aggressiveness”, Germany is characterised by virtues on which the British traditionally pride themselves: “calm, restraint, rationality and compromise”. Take the recent German elections. The result was close, but no one claimed it was rigged or called their opponents “scum”. The favourite to become chancellor, the SPD’s Olaf Scholz, won over voters “with his quiet demeanour, long experience in government and pragmatic politics”. What a contrast to Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

“This reversal of roles is not simply one of the ironies of history. It is the product of history.” Germany built a memorial for its “greatest national disgrace”, the Holocaust, “right at the heart of its capital”. Politicians are “allergic to the cult of the leader” precisely because “they know where demagoguery can lead”. And unlike in the UK, the US and France, “high levels of immigration have not radicalised the mainstream right”. German politics is “exceptional. But this time for a good reason.”