Kevin Kühnert: First appearance as SPD General Secretary

To analyse

Status: 10.01.2022 6:47 p.m.

The “enfant terrible” of the SPD is no longer one: When he first appeared as General Secretary, Kühnert no longer showed any signs of earlier rebellion. Instead: attack outwards – backing inwards.

By Kai Clement, ARD capital studio

The quick thinker and quick speaker Kevin Kühnert in a new role: As SPD General Secretary, he stands behind the red lectern in the Willy Brandt House for the first time today. After the purely digital election at the party conference in mid-December, the comrades confirmed the change of role by postal vote. Lars Klingbeil changed from the post of general secretary to the party leadership, Kühnert now supports him and co-boss Saskia Esken as the new general secretary.

Kai Clement
ARD capital studio

Have you arrived safely at your new job? Kühnert asks himself a little time to think about this question: “Let’s start with the simpler question, which is probably the one about the heating subsidy.” But then the answer to his impressions of the new SPD top constellation cannot be flippant enough.

Otherwise, on the question of how things got right up there: As deputy party chairman, I have been part of this body for the last two years. In this respect, I am very familiar with the room, the people present and the thin coffee.

No more “enfant terrible”

Except for the thin coffee, the SPD’s “enfant terrible” is clearly no longer “enfant” and also not “terrible”. As Juso boss, Kühnert also liked to get his own party going. Whether thinking out loud about nationalizations, in which he also included the car manufacturer BMW, or an angry speech against a new edition of the grand coalition after the worst SPD election result of all time in 2017: “We have an interest in ensuring that what is left of this place, damn it, “said Kühnert at the time.

Now on the other hand: clear conditions. The opponent is outside the SPD. Federal state? Bavaria. Surname? Markus Söder. The federal government does not want to introduce its own application for mandatory vaccination in the Bundestag, which also seems almost impossible with the skeptical coalition partner FDP. Instead, the proposals should come from the MPs themselves.

The union with Söder happily interprets this as a weakness in the government: “Individual MPs cannot do that now, they are not in a position to actually grasp the dimensions of the problem in detail,” said the CSU chief. Counter Kühnert: “The assumption has always been in the room that Markus Söder might consider MPs as something of a hindrance for his style of government.”

Backing the Chancellor

Secretary General: That means, as a “general”, an attack on the opposition, as a “secretary”, support for your own party. This is exactly what Kühnert sounds like. Instead of criticizing the Chancellery, full support. Chancellor Olaf Scholz made “a sovereign and mature decision” when he submitted motions for mandatory vaccination to parliament, said Kühnert. Also at the risk that everything now takes longer or is perhaps no longer necessary because of the rapid spread of the omicron.

Esken and Klingbeil, Kühnert and Scholz – instead of changing roles, the new Secretary General prefers to emphasize the familiar: “We have great personal continuity,” he says. And this is what it sounds like from the Willy Brandt House, how it is on the traditional SPD flag and how the party has successfully carried it into the Chancellery: “Unity makes you strong.”

Thin coffee, familiar faces – Kühnert’s premiere as SPD general secretary

Kai Clement, ARD Berlin, 10.1.2022 · 17:57

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