In the SPD things can sometimes happen quickly, very quickly, perhaps too quickly. A proper speech and the sky is blue again. Just like Saturday lunchtime, shortly after Olaf Scholz's appearance: cheers, joy, gratitude - and five minutes of standing applause for the Chancellor, who brought his government to the brink with daring debt maneuvers.
Is it still okay?
The euphoria couldn't actually have been due to the elegance of the Chancellor's appearance. Roughly estimated, three quarters of the speech seemed like a conglomeration of dry government statements. Are we on the side of Ukraine? Check. Have we mastered the energy crisis? Check. Israel is part of our reason of state? Check. We care about those who have a difficult time in life? Care for higher wages? Stand up against the right?
Check, check, check.
The fact that the Chancellor was celebrated, despite many platitudes, as if he were a little Obama, has primarily to do with the fact that he broke his own taboo and did exactly what he usually avoids at all costs: Scholz, the very cautious government craftsman, formulated a thick red line in the budget dispute.
He made it clear that the welfare state, the “DNA” of his party, would not be touched under him as chancellor. Neither the pension nor the citizen's benefit will be reduced. I can still be chancellor - that was the signal from a man who recently acted like a vice chancellor for too long, driven by his own finance minister. Now Scholz suddenly drives Lindner. He doesn't want others to set up the guard rails in the budget dispute, he wants to do it himself. Cheers, joy, gratitude.
He may have reassured his party, which had recently been doubting more and more about his ability to lead, and put him in a comfortable state for a moment. The government rescue operation could now become even more difficult. For the FDP, the Chancellor's appearance must feel like a declaration of war.
The Liberals have discussed nothing more in recent weeks than the generous resources of the welfare state; nowhere do they see more potential for cuts than in the budget of Labor Minister Hubertus Heil. If nothing comes of this, but the budget gap is to be closed at the same time, another exception to the debt brake will be almost unavoidable, which is actually a no-go for the FDP and its boss Christian Lindner.
Can the finance minister go? Does he have the strength to convince his party to take a step that he seems to oppose like no one else? Can he be a statesman at a time when parts of the FDP would rather leave the government today rather than tomorrow?
Scholz, Lindner and Robert Habeck will meet on Sunday for the next negotiation. A plan should be in place by mid-week at the latest. The Chancellor has had tough weeks since the Karlsruhe verdict. Hard days could now await Lindner.