Mark my words, Germans – and the world – will be better off ...

World

Mark my words, Germans – and the world – will be better off without Merkel

ANALYSIS | After four terms in office, outgoing German chancellor is overrated at home and abroad

Niall Ferguson

Angela Merkel has long had her admirers in the anglophone media. In November 2015 the Economist called her “the indispensable European”. A month later the Financial Times named her its “person of the year”. Time magazine proclaimed her “chancellor of the free world”. When Donald Trump was elected president of the US, the New York Times dubbed Merkel “the liberal West’s last defender”.

I confess, I have never quite seen her that way. My one encounter with Angela Merkel was in Spain during an early phase of the Eurozone crisis. It was February 2011 and I happened to be in Madrid, where I was trying to work out just how close to collapse the European banking system was. I was between meetings with officials at the central bank and finance ministry when, walking with a swiftness rarely seen in Madrid’s corridors of power, the German chancellor and her entourage arrived for a meeting with the hapless socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

I had never before seen a politician behave with such canine deference as Zapatero did when Merkel entered the room. It puzzled me at first, because the German chancellor does not look at all commanding. The word journalists cannot resist when describing her is “frumpy”. And yet I discerned within a few minutes her subtly intimidating aura. Angela Merkel does not suffer fools gladly. Indeed, she struck me as having a low tolerance of even quite smart people. Tracey Ullman does by far the best Merkel impersonation. But Merkel often treats her inner circle to her own spoofs of other leaders (the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was a favourite target)...

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