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It isn't looking to be a good year for ex-prime ministers. Considering the fact that Tony had ruled the roost for nearly eight years, the survival on January 1 of Callaghan, Heath, Thatcher, and Major was a major blow to annuity providers. But by the end of the year there are likely to be but two ex-prime ministers alive, and Margaret is looking dodgier on her pins every day.

Heath will probably go down as the man whose commitment to Europe got us in in the first place, although of more interest to macro-economists would be his "drive for growth" from 1970 to 1973. The great "what if" here is, would it have worked had the oil crisis not blown it off the rails? The probable answer is, no, if only because Tony Barber, nominally Heath's Chancellor, but probably little more than a gopher, was renowned for his hopelessness at economics.

And now it looks like we will be getting "Thatcher Lite" in Germany before the end of the year. Angela Merkl, definitely a better choice than the quixotically selected Edmund Stoiber for the last CDU/CSU vs SPD battle, seems to be putting forward reform proposals that could have been stolen from the Thatcher 1979 manifesto (with the exception of the real vote winner -- sell the council houses off at a knock down price). The funny thing about many Germans is that they spend most of their time reflecting on how miserable they are, and yet as a nation they have roads that work, public transport that works, and the most amazing amount of free time -- well, those employed in the state sector or within the financial sector do. Now they want to get rid of that and become more like us and the Americans, with no free time, no job security and a public transport infrastructure creaking at the knees.

Sometimes it seems an odd world.

Date: 2005-07-18 08:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] geoffchall.livejournal.com
I'll leave John W the opportunity to tell you just how creaky Germany can be. Certainly their road infra-structure isn't all it's cracked up to be. Traffic jams, a large majority of the motorway system only 4-lane instead of 6 and some pretty crumbly B roads. Germany has a perceived veneer of perfect German-ness, but the truth is a little less than perfect.

And their society is looking a bit wonky. Unemployment rates have been pretty high for a long time and it's probably an inbuilt sense of order that keeps serious rioting down. Or maybe there is major street action that just isn't worth reporting here?

Thatcher will go on and on and on.

The grass is always greener

Date: 2005-07-19 06:37 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I think it's always easier to see the disadvantages of your own situation. The German economy surely has its own disadvantages more easily appreciated by people on the spot.

As for roads, my experience is rather out of date, but when I travelled through Germany to Sweden in 1989 (a little while ago by now...), I was driving mostly on motorways that had two lanes in each direction. One lane was populated by lorries driving slowly, the other by sinister black BMWs that materialized behind me as if by magic (travelling at the speed of sound) and breathed fire until I risked collision with the lorries in the other lane to get out of their way.

Quite irrelevantly, I remember one thing about the situation in Berlin in 1976-77 (when I lived there). Everyone paid for tickets to travel on the U-bahn, and solemnly cancelled the tickets in the automatic machines on every trip. Supposedly, inspectors went around checking tickets, but in fifteen months my ticket was never checked. I asked a few of my German colleagues why people bothered to pay for tickets that were never checked. They were deeply shocked. The idea of travelling without paying for a ticket had never occurred to them. Only a depraved Englishman could have thought of it (though in fact I was a coward, and always paid for my tickets just like the Germans).

-- Jonathan

Re: The grass is always greener

Date: 2005-07-19 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] peterbirks.livejournal.com
I had this conversation with Cat about the Hamburg U-Bahn. She said that in Munich a significant proportion of people didn't pay, because no-one every checked. But in Hamburg everybody paid, because people were often checked. But, in my short experience of using the Hamburg U-Bahn, I never saw anyone's ticket being checked.

The DLR in London has automatic check-ins and outs, and I would imagine that your ticket is checked by the train supervisor about one time in 30, which makes the ten quid fine a reasonable bet.

Most people buy season tickets these days. I would imagine the same system now applies in Germany. This makes checking tickets even more cost-inefficient. And the new bendy buses in London are a hop-on ho-off charter for the fiscally challenged.

As for the "inbuilt sense of order" keeping the rioters off the streets; I suspect that it is rather more the generous state benefits system.

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