Opinion is divided here

He had been well on his way to becoming a professional footballer when a meniscus tear put paid to his dreams and he fell into a state of depression, alcoholism and chain-smoking. Now, more than 42 years on, Martin Schulz is presenting the fiercest opposition yet to Angela Merkel’s attempts to win a fourth term as German chancellor.

The 61-year-old, who is returning to his homeland after 23 years in the European parliament – acting as its president since 2012 – is seen as offering the Social Democratic party (SPD) the best chance in years to reverse its fortunes, following a period of falling membership and poor electoral performances.

Although his chances of ousting Merkel in September are slim, Schulz’s challenge has been widely interpreted as a step towards undoing voter disenchantment and limiting the number of protest votes going to the rightwing populist party Alternative für Deutschland.

That he’s ghastly is not one of these things which divides people. Rather, has he actually stopped drinking?

31 comments on “Opinion is divided here

  1. The 61-year-old, who is returning to his homeland after 23 years in the European parliament

    What is going through his mind? A quarter of a century cut off from the mainstream of German politics? How screwed does the SDP have to be that he would even have a chance?

    Surely it is all a delusion based on his alcohol-fueled belief he is Jesus come again? It takes schmoozing and hard work to climb the greasy pole. Well, schmoozing anyway. Who does he think he is? Trump?

  2. Why would any German who isn’t already a complete leftist fuckwit vote for a treacherous twat who is more-of-the-same in a chrome-domed carcass?

    Unless 23 years of EU-sucking treason ARE his qualifications.

  3. The idea of Schulz – the ultimate “establishment” figure – undoing voter disenchantment is laughable and only worthy of a paper unable to discern a reason for voters to be disenchanted in the first place.

    I think that today’s figurehead Brussels drink problem lurks in the Berlaymont, actually…

  4. > has he actually stopped drinking?

    Do the MEPs have a subsidised bar like our MPs? If so, the absence of a discount drinking den in his workplace will in itself lead to a reduction in his drinking, even if nothing else about him changes.

  5. It’s bizarre watching him in the EU parliament – a total non-entity, machine technocrat with no presence, no ideas, and just looks vacant when really challenged, waiting for the time to be up and for it to go away.

    Mutti will eat him for Frühstück.

  6. He had been well on his way to becoming a professional footballer when a meniscus tear put paid to his dreams and he fell into a state of depression, alcoholism and chain-smoking.

    Was he now? What is the evidence he had any chance at a professional football career? His wikipedia page says:

    After four years at primary school, from 1962 to 1966, Schulz attended the Heilig-Geist (Holy Spirit) grammar school, a private Roman Catholic school run by the Holy Ghost Fathers (or Spiritans),[5] in Broich (now Würselen), a district of the town of Broichweiden, for nine years, leaving without his abitur.

    Which is not really relevant but I want to point out he is thick. Thick enough to be a footballer anyway.

    From 1975 to 1977 Schulz then trained to be a bookseller.[6] The next two years he worked for a number of publishing houses and bookshops, and in 1982 he opened his own bookshop in Würselen, which he ran until 1994

    So from the age of 20 he trained to sell books. It also says

    Schulz suffered a period of alcoholism as a young man after a knee injury put an end to his hopes of playing football.

    Both the references are in German and seem to be his boasts of his drinking. When was he planning on being a footballer precisely? Between the age he dropped out of school and the age he took up the exciting career of selling books?

    Sounds like he is trying to butch up his CV.

  7. The equivalent situation here would be Mark Serwotka or Len McCluskey running for leadership of the incumbent party of government in the UK.

  8. After four years at primary school, from 1962 to 1966, Schulz attended the Heilig-Geist (Holy Spirit) grammar school, a private Roman Catholic school run by the Holy Ghost Fathers (or Spiritans),[5] in Broich (now Würselen), a district of the town of Broichweiden, for nine years, leaving without his abitur.

    That passage gets even weirder the more you think about it. He was born on December 20 1955. So he was in primary school until 1966 – when he was eleven. Fine. He then spent the next nine years in High School? He left in 1975 at the age of 20?

    Who gets held back for three years in High School?

  9. Who gets held back for three years in High School?

    A total Dummkopf…

    In Switzerland they’ll hold you back for up to 2 years, but if you’re that thick you’ll not be doing Abitur-equivalent, you’ll be shunted off to do something non-academic.

    Overall he strikes me as someone who is not very bright at all, and totally uncarismatic. I ask myself the question how someone like that finds himself in such high orifice.

  10. When I last had dealings with German undergraduates they’d typically left their secondary schools at 19, then done a couple of years in the army. So they started their university studies at 21.

    “He was born on December 20 1955. … He left in 1975 at the age of 20?” If the German school year ends in July, say, then he’d have left at age 19 wouldn’t he?

  11. “Can ‘man of the people’ Martin Schulz oust Angela Merkel?”

    Apply Betteridge’s law. Stop reading.

  12. I think it was PJ O’Rourke who said he always votes for the alcoholic.

    Everyone has a vice. At least with the alcoholic, you know what it is, and for the voter, it is probably a tolerable vice when you consider the alternatives.

  13. It’s laughable. On the other hand, Merkel being lauded as a great leader is also laughable. It’s like a parallel world where being a credulous fool is somehow seen as a strength

  14. Merkel has managed to become the hegemon of Europe without any shots being fired and without many Europeans seemingly caring.

  15. @ DtP
    Depends on the German: if you or I had wanted a doubles partner at tennis a sober Boris Becker would have been quite helpful.

  16. Martin Schulz, the man who Berlusconi suggested should play the role of a concentration camp KaPo in a film he was producing and whom Euro MP Godfrey Bloom called an undemocratic fascist, both of these events happening in the European Parliament, and both of them with good reason, is the best the SPD can find to revive its chances.

    If the Germans elect this guy they deserve everything they get.

  17. @ M’Lud,

    That’s just the German apprenticing system for you. Lot of it still in place today, though a bit less than back then. Companies get a couple of years of cheap labour in return for “training” staff. In some professions you have to do a certain amount of time of this, but I’d doubt bookseller is among them.

  18. It’s entirely feasible that Schulz could end up chancellor of a minority government, especially if the FDP fail to get back into parliament.

    If you get say:
    25% SDP
    10% Green
    10% Linke

    lined up against

    35% CDU/CSU
    15% AfD
    4.9% FDP (no seats)
    0.1% others

    Then you will even have the SPD leading a majority government. AfD are too toxic, and at heart genuinely nasty, for anyone to do a deal with.

    If the FDP do get back in, they may well find a coalition with the SPD less distasteful than with Merkel’s CDU. But – they will never do a deal with the Linke, and the SPD will not be big enough, so it will be grand coalition again.

    My money is on grand coalition, with the FDP in parliament, as the smallest opposition party. If disaster strikes and the FDP don’t make it in, then a red-red-green coalition is most likely, IMHO.

  19. BiG

    And the cretins will be busily lining up to talk about the wonderful Schulz, leader of Europe and counter balance to Trump. It’s so funny.

  20. Großer- we can probably agree on one thing which is that Germany has far greater salience in the EU than it ever wanted to have and would very much sooner not be -far less appear to be – the boss country.

    Moreover, the EU has been an effective fire blanket for German nationalism but the gradual failure of the project has serious implications which will become more apparent as Brexit makes itself felt and the future absence of the UK budget contribution hits home.

    AfD is toxic and the FDP is resurgent for readers of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, I grant you, but polls and media have been woefully inaccurate in Britain and the US so why not in Germany too?

    The elections in NL and France will show whether the populist mood in Europe is ebbing or whether the tide is still rising. I reckon you’ll be out of pocket with your bet.

  21. All politicians are pretty vile, of course, but German politicians are more vile than most.

  22. BiCR – I don’t think that’s entirely correct.

    My guess is that politicians are vile in proportion to the degree that corruption is more or less endemic in their countries and consequently German politicians are probably cleaner and less vile han most.

    Martin Schulz is a special case in that he is essentially an EU politician and they are über-Bisto and beyond vile with extra pistachio nuts and cream on their puds.

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