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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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.