CDU speaker confesses in detail to a very slightly misspent youth


Friedrich Merz may be the ultra-conservative parliamentary speaker of Germany's Christian Democrats, but he can still play Wipeout on his electric guitar, he confessed yesterday.

In a carefully choreographed confessional with the Berlin Tagesspiegel, Mr Merz did his best to show himself as the cool face of conservatism.

But as Britain's conservative leader, Mr William Hague, will tell you, cool conservatism is an elusive concept to grasp, no matter how many new haircuts you get or baseball caps you wear back-to-front.

Mr Merz, who sports his own Hagueesque buzz cut, caused uproar recently by suggesting that immigrants coming to Germany should assimilate themselves and adopt the German "leading" culture (Leitkultur).

Yesterday, however, he tried to change the record by filling Berliners in on his rebellious past in the manner of a father trying to earn cool-stripes by embarrassing his children in front of their friends.

There was quite an inventory of imagined iniquity he was desperate to share.

"I had problems with my parents relatively early on, I had shoulder-length hair, I raced through my home town on my motorbike. I started drinking and smoking at the local snack bar when I was 14," he said.

But the madness doesn't stop there. He also played his electric guitar loudly at home (on a selfbuilt loudspeaker) and listened to the Doors. But he didn't take drugs or heed Jim Morrisons's incitements to social anarchy, he was at pains to point out.

Mr Merz also learned the trumpet, his interviewer pointed out, but that's not going to win many votes and was quickly glossed over. No, this was more a revisionist rebellion of a voter-friendly variety.