24 May 2013

The Germans are coming: 10 things we can learn

As London plays host to the biggest influx of Germans since the Adventus Saxonum, here is my 10-point plan of things to ask a stray Munich or Dortmund fan if you bump into them on the way to Saturday’s Champion’s League final at Wembley this sunny bank holiday weekend. It’s drawn off the top of my head from research done for a chapter in my book. Feel free to translate.

1. How have you more than halved unemployment at nearly 12 per cent in 2005 to 5 per cent now at the same time as UK unemployment has nearly doubled to around 8 per cent?

2. How has your society coped without the happy feeling of a rampant house price inflation, in fact with real house prices falling in Germany over three decades, and trebling here in Britain?

3. Why do you feel the need to plan for economic growth, and advanced metropolitan transport infrastructures outside your capital city? Why not concentrate all poles of growth in Berlin (it works for us)?

4. How do you charge less for a Bahncard offering annual travel on the entire German high speed rail network than the cost of a season ticket for one rubbish slow commuter train, for example, between Brighton and London?

5. Do you have actual real authentic Apprentices? We have a TV show. Why do your apprenticeships last for two years or more? Ours last a few weeks sometimes, don’t the teenagers get bored?

6. How is it that the German housebuilders are therefore obliged to build new innovative homes, that sell on the basis of space, quality, and environmental standards (such as Passivhaus), rather than “desperation to be on the ladder” in Britain?

How come 28 per cent of German land is built upon, versus 8 per cent in the UK? What about the green belt and the birds and the trees? Doesn’t your Baufreiheit “freedom to build” policy lead to untrammelled misery and concrete as far as the eye can see?

7. How did your economy rebound so spectacularly from the post Lehman crash? Was it something to do with a careful, non-dogmatic, cooperative response from business, the state, and the unions?

8. Can we have Volkswagen and Siemens back? (VW restarted by a British major who found the blueprints in the rubble of the Wolfsburg factory; Siemens was founded in the UK 170 years ago).

9. Can we borrow your Mittelstand, foundation of a balanced export-driven medium-sized business sector? With the Marshall Fund money after the war you funded a business bank called KfW, which provides long-term funding which the banks shy away from (now more than ever). Why didn’t you spend that money on tax cuts?

10. How is it that one type of season ticket to watch Ribery, Robben, Martinez and Gomez at the Allianz costs less (€120, £103, also includes free transport) than a some tickets to a single game to watch Olivier Giroud at the Emirates ? Is it because your government trusts “safe standing” football fans to stand up whilst watching their entertainment? We only let people do that at the opera.

PS: You can’t leave until you’ve signed up to eurobonds, forced Mario to print euros and paid up for the eurozone crisis that’s your fault.

Useful links:
Liz Truss MP Germany report
TUC report