Leader: The German model

In praise of the Bundesliga and more besides.

As Jonathan Wilson writes on page 25 [of the 3-9 May New Statesman] , there is much for British football fans to admire in the success of German clubs in this year’s Champions League. However, it is not just the thrilling football of “quick transitions” with which Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have swept all before them that makes the German game so attractive. Supporters of Premier League teams, who are charged eyewatering amounts to watch clubs owned by Russian oligarchs or Middle Eastern petro-plutocrats, must look longingly at the Bundesliga. Their German counterparts pay modest sums to stand on the terraces (something the English are still not allowed to do) to watch sides full of native talent. Many supporters also have a financial stake in the clubs they follow: the “50+1” rule requires that club members must own a minimum of 51 per cent of its shares. Leveraged buyouts by foreign owners of great sporting institutions cannot happen in Germany.

This model of club ownership is a microcosm of the structure of the German economy more generally. As Maurice Glasman argues on page 24, German economic success is a function of a system of institutions that promote partnership between labour and capital, proper vocational training and focused regional investment.

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who struggled so miserably to explain his party’s economic policy in a recent BBC radio interview, could do worse than start learning from the Germans.


Bayern Munich's Philipp Lahm, like Germany, is on the ball. Photo: Getty Images.
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Political video has come full circle in Obama and Clinton’s mockumentary-style films

Political campaign videos are increasingly mimicking the specific styles of filmmaking created to mock them.

This week, Hillary Clinton released a campaign video featuring Barack Obama, in an attempt to persuade her supporters to vote early. It revolved around Obama’s self-professed earliness. “I’m always early,” he tells us, cheerily. Aides chip in to explain this irritating habit, which becomes progressively more exaggerated, his approach to timing absurd. “You know how you beat LeBron James one-on-one? Get there 45 minutes early. Then it’s one-on-none.” A former staffer sighs. “You try telling the President of the United States there’s no such thing as a one-on-none.”

This is an instantly recognisable mockumentary style – deliberately shakey camerawork, complete with lots of zooming in and out, as absurd corporate behaviour is interspersed with incredulous talking heads and voiceover. It has its roots in the Office UK, taking the States by storm with The Office US, 30 Rock and Modern Family, and developing a political subgenre in The Thick of It, In the Loop and, most recently, Parks and Recreation. (Vague comparisons between Clinton and Poehler’s Leslie Knope abound.)

The content, too, seems familiar – a politician talks to camera about a personality quirk that is broadly a strength for someone in government, but exaggerates it to create a geeky, optimistic goofball, and a pretty likeable character. Take Leslie Knope on never smoking weed:

In terms of style and content, they’re fairly indistinguishable. And this not the only Clinton campaign video influenced by mockumentary and comedy tropes . In March, the Clinton campaigned released a “mean tweets” video with Senator Al Franken in the style of a Jimmy Kimmel Live talking head. Three days ago, a video campaign starring “Fake Lawyer” Josh Charles, an actor on The Good Wife, was released. It borrows heavily from mockumentary styles as well as self-mocking celebrity cameos in advertising. Even some non-comic videos, like this lighthearted one about Clinton’s granddaughter, have the exaggerated camerawork of the genre.

Of course, we can trace these campaign videos back to Obama again. His campaigns have always been heavily video based, and he’s taken the piss out of himself for Buzzfeed to promote campaigns. But the White House’s official channels are also in on the joke. In 2013, they released a mockumentary starring Steven Spielberg and 30 Rock’s Tracey Morgan, in which Obama plays Daniel Day Lewis playing Obama.

Earlier this year, the channel released another mini mockumentary, featuring Obama preparing for the end of his time as president. (The film even ridicules a less self-aware style of video – Obama posts a misjudged Snapchat about Obamacare, and asks “Did it get a lot of views at least?”)

A politician whose ideal evening consists of children’s movie marathons with colleagues? Where have we seen that before? Yes, political video has come full circle. Personally, I’m waiting on the Hillary Clinton break dancing clip

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.