SPD chairmen Esken and Walter-Borjans have been in their office for a year. In an interview with ARD Capital Studio talk about the grand coalition, the Greens and the question of whether they want to run again.
ARD: In the past, the selection of senior staff at the SPD often took a long time. Are you now watching the CDU with a little scorn, where it takes the same amount of time and there are many arguments?
Requirement: No, ridicule is a feeling that is foreign to me. I’m more concerned about how long it will take at the CDU and how painful it can be. We can all only hope that the CDU’s internal position struggles and directional issues do not lead to cooperation problems in the coalition. In any case, we are very united at the top and work very trustingly and very close to each other.
ARD: Where do you see the biggest points you have made as the new chairman of the party and also in federal politics in the first year?
Walter-Borjans: At the time, we criticized the fact that the SPD had often taken the coalition into account when describing social democratic goals and demands. We changed it. We have the freedom because we are not members of the government or have responsibility in the group. The stimulation package would look different without us. Take, for example, the coalition’s clear commitment to the transition to electromobility, but also our equally clear position on the election of the Prime Minister of Thuringia. At that time, we left no doubt as to what it would mean if a Prime Minister who was elected with the AfD’s votes remains in office. In all, it was extremely helpful that we were not also members of the government.
ARD: But it is surprising that there is now such great harmony. Before their election convention, Jusos sang enthusiastically “Nikolaus ist GroKo aus”. It was a position that clearly did not have a majority in the party – for example in the parliamentary group.
Requirement: This was also the case when the Grand Coalition came to the conclusion that the parliamentary group was strongly behind the Grand Coalition. By the way, I also defended her at that time. I thought the coalition agreement was good and I helped negotiate it in the digital chapter. But after two years, I also had the impression that the coalition had ruled itself tired. There was not much oomph in there, to put it that way. The order of the Federal Party Congress was then also: Change the coalition or end it. And that is what Norbert and I did after our election: the results of the coalition committees often have a clear Social Democratic signature. In addition to Corona, this was also a reason why Juso’s and other GroKo opponents within the party have now also made peace with it during the year. In the federal election campaign, we are now working together to overcome GroKo. And to send the CDU to the opposition bench.
ARD: But you can not rule out that it will be a GroKo again after all?
Walter-Borjans: This country is in a very difficult situation and is facing a great challenge that we have mastered well together in this great coalition. Much has been achieved there. But where does the ship go when the sea calms down again? When it comes to questions about how the burden is shared after the crisis, or if you continue to invest, or if you stop shouting and say that we can no longer afford anything, big differences become obvious. With a broken economic policy, more burdens would only be moved into the future. Even after the crisis, we must ensure that the financial resources are available to continue the economy and important tasks and not stop them. These questions make it clear: After the next federal election, this is not the right constellation.
ARD: It would only be possible with the greens by your side, who might also be able to flirt with the CDU and CSU. What kind of offers can you make there?
Walter-Borjans: I’m pretty relaxed there. We are now finally forming a coalition with the CDU and the CSU. We do not have the right to be decided by a coalition partner – and we do not do it ourselves. The question is: do we have the larger common intersection? If the Greens stick to what they recently decided and if SMEs can support it all in the end, we would have a good common ground.
Requirement: The Greens already have long experience in one or the other federal state of what it means to govern with the CDU. For example, in Baden-Württemberg or Hesse. And not a little of what the Greens put forward when it comes to programs at the federal level, such as the Bundestag, is not part of the government’s policies in these countries. On the contrary. Resolutions are made there and laws are formulated which, if we made them together with the CDU, would lead to loud protests here. To remind you of this from time to time and to make it clear: If you really want to do progressive politics, it only works with us – it should succeed.
ARD: Shortly after the federal election in the autumn, the SPD must choose a new top again. Are you jumping again?
Requirement: Together with Olaf Scholz, we have decided that our team will take us on to federal elections – and beyond. Then you look further.
Walter-Borjans: One of the reasons we won the members’ trust was that we do not put personal ambition first. We have received the order to engage the members more in the formation of opinions again and ensure that there is a good interaction between the party leadership. We have come a long way. And we started giving this SPD a social democratic profile again. We want to show: What can we expect from this party if it is not subject to the constraints of a grand coalition? The crucial question is how we can get back a hope of faith with the voters from good government work. We started with something good there. We want to continue it now – and then we’ll see.
The interview was conducted by Kai Clement and Moritz Rödle, ARD Capital Studio