How Germany’s Mutti Merkel has turned blandness into gold

The country desperately needs change, so why does its leaden chancellor still appear invincible after 12 years?

Gerry and the Pacemakers, contemporaries of the Beatles, once had a hit called How Do You Do It? As the German elections draw nearer and Angela Merkel seems to be coasting towards a fourth term as chancellor, politicians all over the world might well ask: how does she do it? She is uncharismatic and rhetorically leaden and has made political blunders that would have ruined most other politicians. And yet she seems unbeatable.

A year and a half ago, at the height of the refugee crisis, after the horror of the mass molestation of women at Cologne railway station, only the brave would have taken odds on Merkel surviving. Backbenchers from her own Christian Democratic party were constantly steering journalists into corners and giving them tips on an imminent coup that would install Wolfgang Schäuble, the flinty finance minister, as an interim chancellor until a conservative rising star could be presented to lead the party and the country back to the ideals of Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.

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