At the last asparagus trip of the Seeheimer Kreis in 2019, it was still woman overboard: Andrea Nahles had just resigned as party and parliamentary group leader. Social Democracy stood on the side of the Union on the verge of disaster. The mood was correspondingly somber. And now: It’s a different world in 2022; and another party. A global pandemic, a war in Europe – and the SPD is the chancellor.
The latter still seems to surprise many comrades. The party celebrities who take part in the Wannsee trip of the conservative SPD wing on Tuesday evening never tire of emphasizing what a feat of strength they have put in. The party was at eleven percent before the federal election campaign, said current SPD leader Lars Klingbeil in his short speech. “We marched, we didn’t let ourselves be dissuaded, we can be proud of that.”
It is Klingbeil who gets to the heart of the overall political situation. The four major crises, he calls them: the crisis of the pandemic, the crisis of war, the crisis of inflation, the crisis of social cohesion.
Rarely has a government started a legislature with such challenges. The one who has to manage these crises is Olaf Scholz. Sitting with him at the table, with asparagus, schnitzel and a handful of potatoes, were the Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig, the Interior Minister, Nancy Faeser, and the spokesman for the Seeheim district, Dirk Wiese.
Scholz starts with an unwanted joke about the pandemic: “Many here are vaccinated, I think everyone. Multiple. Some are also infected,” he says. And after a short art break: “Not up to date, I hope.” He’s sure to laugh.
Then it becomes state-supporting. He praises himself for having the courage to have initiated the amendments to the Basic Law on the special fund for the Bundeswehr: “It wasn’t safe and involved a high political risk, but I proposed it anyway.” At the same time, he got his party and, of course, the country on board a long engagement in Ukraine. The “bitter truth” is: “Putin has no intention of giving up and it will cost a lot of victims.”
You can hardly win an election with your commitment to Ukraine, as you know here on Tuesday evening. A look at Paris is enough, where President Emmanuel Macron has just suffered a severe defeat in the parliamentary elections. That’s why the Social Democrats want to continue the secret of last year’s electoral success.
“We won the election because we addressed the right issues,” analyzes Scholz. He wants to continue with that. What moves people today above all: inflation.
“We will not leave the citizens alone in this challenge,” he promises. What people don’t want now is “excited” suggestions every day. “We have packages on the way, which are now arriving at the people piece by piece and maybe noticed.”
One thing also becomes clear on the excursion ship MS Havel Queen, which is sailing around 600 guests across Lake Wannsee that evening: In the midst of the major crises, the Social Democrats believe in themselves. They are still inspired by the electoral success. “We have put the SPD back on the right track,” says party leader Klingbeil.
He appealed to the unity of the party. “Say everything internally, closed to the outside world” is his motto. So far this seems to be working. Personnel quarrels à la Nahles are not an issue that evening on the lake.