A ‘smurf’, a ‘plumber’, a ‘know-it-all’: Olaf Scholz has been called many things. But so far Germany’s chancellor has brushed off the criticism. ‘I like the smurf thing,’ he told German media, ‘they are small, cunning and they always win.’ Being associated with the ‘honourable craft of plumbing’ made him ‘proud’. And of all the epithets to acquire, ‘know-it-all’ may not have been the worst; unless, that is, you run out of answers.
Scholz has had a tricky year in 2023. With crisis after crisis engulfing his administration, few Germans now trust him to offer viable solutions. A survey earlier this month suggested that only a fifth of voters are currently satisfied with the chancellor’s work – the worst result recorded since this type of polling began a quarter of a century ago. If they could pick a chancellor from any political party, only 5 per cent said they would choose Scholz.
This year has also been a difficult one for Germans. Food prices have risen by another 6.1 per cent from already high levels in 2022. Soaring energy prices mean that 5.5 million Germans say they weren’t able to heat their house properly over the past year. In a survey conducted in the poorer eastern areas of the country, three quarters said they had to make cuts in their spending on consumer items and leisure time activities. One respondent, 46-year-old Karina from the state of Thuringia, said: ‘Food…petrol and energy: everything has become so expensive that I have nothing left at the end of the month. There was a time when I could go out sometimes, or go to the cinema. Such extras are no longer possible.’
One could argue, as Scholz has, that these problems have nothing to do with his politics.