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Cablegate: The Spd After Its Hamburg Convention: The View From Nrw

VZCZCXRO6314
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDF #0033/01 3310811
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 270811Z NOV 07
FM AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0097
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE
RUEHDF/AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF 0111

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSSELDORF 000033

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV GM
SUBJECT: THE SPD AFTER ITS HAMBURG CONVENTION: THE VIEW FROM NRW

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Sensitive but Unclassified -- Not for Internet Distribution

1. (SBU) Summary: In the weeks following the national
convention in Hamburg, senior NRW SPD leaders are projecting a
renewed sense of confidence as the state party retained its
major national role and emerged more unified after a period of
internal dissonance. State SPD chair Hannelore Kraft spun the
party's decision to amend its Agenda 2010 as a "relatively minor
correction that leaves about 90% of the Agenda intact" and a
"return to our roots," a view we have found widespread
especially among Ruhr area mayors. Whether the "bounce" for the
NRW SPD emerging from the Hamburg convention will strengthen the
state party's profile against a strong CDU-FDP coalition and
popular Minister President, as well as the growing influence of
the Left Party, remains to be seen. End Summary.

Strong NRW Influence Continues on SPD National Level
--------------------------------------------- -------------

2. (SBU) In a recent conversation with the CG, SPD NRW Chair
Hannelore Kraft, who was reelected to the National Executive
Board with one of the best election results, said the convention
provided "good signals and a boost for the party in NRW." She
pointed out that 13 of the party's 45 Executive Board Members
are from NRW, and with the election of Finance Minister and
former NRW Minister-President Peer Steinbrueck as National Vice
Chairman and Barbara Hendricks as party Treasurer, two of the
six inner leaders are also from her state. She attributed the
strong results for NRW to the fact that "for the first time in
party history the delegation acted as a more or less unified
block."

NRW SPD sees Beck as Undisputed Party Leader
--------------------------------------------- -------

3. (SBU) Kraft expressed strong support for Kurt Beck,
commenting that "although not especially media-savvy, he has
always enjoyed strong support from rank-and-file members." She
contrasted Beck with Franz Muentefering, whom she called "a
rational person, basing his politics on reason and economic
facts." Kraft also said that it would be Beck's decision to
stand in 2009, adding that the convention demonstrated his
ability "to appeal to people's emotions, not their intellect,"
and that "he is not polarizing and has a natural gift to unite
people." Cologne SPD MdB Lale Akgun predicted to Pol/Econ
Officer that Beck would be the party's next candidate for
Chancellor, calling him "a man of the people, who has what it
takes to find widespread support in the electorate."

Local NRW SPD Leaders Call Convention a "Return to Roots"
--------------------------------------------- -------------------

4. (U) Local NRW SPD politicians also expressed satisfaction
with the Hamburg convention. Four SPD mayors from the Ruhr area
spun the results to the CG as less of a "shift to the left" than
a "return to roots." Kraft also rejected the notion that the
convention amounted to a "swing to the left." She called the
change in the unemployment benefit regulation only "cosmetic,"
to correct what many people in the party considered a social
injustice. It was necessary to give the rank and file the
feeling that its leadership listened to them and addressed their
concerns. Muenterfering opposed the change because he feared it
would open the flood gates to a complete revision of the Agenda
2010, an assessment she disagreed with, arguing that "deep down
the party knows Agenda 2010 was absolutely necessary," despite
the fact that they were not enthusiastic about it and wanted
"injustices corrected." She assessed that overall 90% of Agenda
2010 would remain in place.

Delegates Younger, More Focused on Environment and "Social
Justice"
--------------------------------------------- --------------
-------------

5. (SBU) Kraft observed that in recent years ecological and
social justice themes have gained in importance among convention
delegates, who in Hamburg were also younger than in the past.
The Deutsche Bahn privatization vote demonstrated strong
opposition among delegates to further moves in this direction,
in large part because activists from local government had
experienced job losses in their areas after such cases in the
past. Kraft commented positively on the tone the party
leadership had set, the free and open debate, and the fact that
debate on critical issues had not been stifled, which had
happened in the past.

Reactions from NRW-based businesses
----------------------------------------

6. Amcham NRW leaders have not expressed concern to us about
the main casualties (unemployment benefits and train
privatization) from Hamburg, as they do not affect their

DUSSELDORF 00000033 002.2 OF 002


operations directly, but they have told us they are watching for
signs of a further erosion of Agenda 2010. The Cologne-based
Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft, one of Germany's leading
economic research institutes (associated with BDI), criticized
the decision to extend unemployment benefits for older
employees, pointing out that it would cost up to two billion
Euros annually and arguing that the indirect costs would be even
higher.

Comment
-----------

7. (SBU) The modifications in Hamburg to Agenda 2010 are
clearly popular among the party base in NRW as representing a
"return to SPD roots." State party leaders' attempts to present
the changes as "not much of a shift to the left" seem more of an
attempt to reassure the pro-business wing of the party and
others anxious about potential change in national policy. The
NRW SPD rank and file only reluctantly supported Agenda 2010,
while party leaders are concerned about the potential support
for Die Linke. It is thus not surprising that the party is
trying to firm up its base. Whether the "bounce" emerging from
the Hamburg convention will strengthen the NRW SPD against a
strong CDU-FDP coalition and popular Minister President, as well
as the growing influence of the Left Party (septel), remains to
be seen. One of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's chief
aides told DCM recently that he didn't think it would. End
Comment.

8. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.
BOYSE

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