Best columns: Europe
Merkel tries to win back the ‘little guy’
Germany’s next government will probably look the same as the old one, said Thomas Vitzthum, but its priorities will be different. In last September’s election, all three parties in the previous ruling “grand coalition”—Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union, and the center-left Social Democrats—all lost voter share. None seemed particularly eager to team up again. But the alarming success of the far-right Alternative for Germany, which became the nation’s third-largest party in the election, meant that Merkel needed many more seats to form a majority. And so after nearly four months of failed attempts to forge alliances with other parties, the grand coalition has struck a tentative deal to get back together—one that still needs to be approved by party members. This time the trio’s policy focus won’t be on job creation or immigration, “but on the little guy.” Realizing that the exodus of votes to the far right was based on economic insecurity, party leaders have agreed to expand state pensions and the social safety net and offer extra benefits for mothers and children. In a sop to the Right, there will also be curbs on refugee admissions, with a new quota capping yearly entry at some 200,000 and limiting family reunification. It’s a change—but will it be enough to mollify the voters who punished the last grand coalition?
The palace will be her prison
Meghan Markle isn’t even married to Prince Harry yet, but she’s already being forced into a royal straitjacket, said Jenny Eclair. The American actress had to delete her entire social media presence last week. No Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram. You may say, Who needs to share a selfie “when the world’s lenses are constantly in your grill”? But while we’ll be seeing more of Markle than ever, she’ll have no control over the images, nor any way to comment on them. Instead, she’ll get a staid, sham media account “operated by staff who never drink-and-tweet.” Worse yet, none of the outfits she will be photographed wearing will be of her choosing. Like every other female royal, she will “always wear a pair of ugly shoes,” the kind that are “supportive of one’s arch and discouraging of one’s varicose vein.” She will be provided with “an assortment of good-quality, British-made coats” in bland colors like camel and navy. “None of these coats will suit her and they will all make her look 20 years older than she is”—just like Prince William’s wife, Kate, who manages to look dowdy despite her reedy frame. But the greatest indignity will be the mandatory ugly headwear. Markle should keep a Twitter account just so she can publicly say, “Sorry about the hat.” ■