The NRW delegation wants to set a new hurdle for coalition talks at the SPD party conference. If it came to that, Martin Schulz would be left naked.
Does not want to be at the moment: Martin Schulz Photo: dpa
You can just watch in real time how the authority of SPD leader Martin Schulz is crumbling. The SPD party conference next Sunday could set up a new hurdle for coalition negotiations. That’s because the important state association of North Rhine-Westphalia is pushing to make the abolition of permanent employment a condition for a grand coalition. If this were to happen, SPD leader Schulz would be left naked once again. As is well known, he has described the results of the exploratory talks with the CDU/CSU as "excellent," although there is no mention of this labor market policy reform.
Martin Schulz is no longer able to get his store behind him and lead it through the complicated mess. Shortly after his effusive praise for the outcome of the exploratory talks, key SPD members initiated a debate about amendments without any need for them to do so. In doing so, they not only belittled their own leader, they also raised unrealistic expectations among the skeptical SPD base.
You don’t have to have any sympathy for the CDU/CSU, but in this case you can certainly understand the irritation of its leaders. First negotiate a result, but then deliver a wish-fulfillment package? How would the SPD react if Jens Spahn suddenly demanded tax cuts for the rich? No, there is something dubious about the strategy of the unsettled SPD leadership, which wasn’t a strategy to begin with. Schulz looks like an unshaven car dealer in a silk tie who wants to talk his customers into deals with ever new promises.
He announces an evaluation of the grand coalition after two years, including improvements, and he wants the federal ministers to seek contact with the population. Such air quotes are intended to make people forget what is actually at stake: the grand coalition would not be the worst thing for the country as a governing alliance, but it would mean an existential risk for the SPD. Everyone in the party knows that.
Fearful tactics are useless in such a tight spot. The SPD leadership should have backed the negotiated result of the exploratory talks without any ifs or buts – its doubts make it untrustworthy. The outcome of the initiative from North Rhine-Westphalia is unpredictable. The end of permanent contracts could be a bridge for doubting delegates. But this bridge leads to nirvana. Because if the SPD sets a new condition, so will the CDU/CSU. The coalition negotiations would start with a mortgage.