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Konrad Werner: New clear powers

It's been a bonkers week in German politics. You probably didn't notice, but by the standards of Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel, it was Caligula time.

The Roman Emperor Caligula got into some scrapes in his time. He slept with people’s wives when he felt like it, made all his ships line up in a row just so he could ride across them, probably did a little bit of incest, and killed people when he was bored.

Hardly any public figures do anything like this anymore. Silvio Berlusconi’s sex parties are not the same as taking an army to the beach and ordering them to pick up seashells as treasure. Gerhard Schröder might have done something like this, if he thought it might annoy Tony Blair and George Bush, but otherwise not really.

Angela Merkel never does such things, which is one of the reasons why it’s sometimes not much fun following parliamentary debates. It’s that and all the passive sentences, and the Germanic intonation that puts you in mind of a Lutheran minister.

But this week, Merkel suspended her nuclear power policy, and parliament went mental. Sigmar Gabriel shouted “Stop lying!” at the chancellor in his speech. Renate Künast heckled Angie, saying at one point, “Jetzt reicht’s aber!” as if admonishing a very bad child.

The opposition got so into opposing things that they didn’t know what they were opposing anymore. First they wanted all the nuclear power plants shut down, then when Merkel did that, ensuring sails would be windless, they said she had to do it through the parliament.

Merkel didn’t care. She just stood and looked at them all patiently. It was bedlam, I tell you.