There is a gag doing the rounds in the less correct corridors of Brussels at the moment. Apparently, Angela Merkel goes to visit Athens, and the Passport Control bloke asks, “Name?” so she answers “Merkel”. He asks “Occupation?” and she replies, “No, just visiting”.
Frau Merkel will be in Athens early next week. The German Chancellor is not best liked in the Greek capital. The media there tend to portray her in jackboots and wielding a whip, with a predictable Hitler moustache. But right now, most of the gossip is about why she’s going….and why she’s really going.
“It’s to give a signal that Samaras has her confidence,” writes one regular Slog source down there. If anyone needs the right signal at the moment, it’s Antonis Samaras. The Greek PM just left for more talks in France, admitting that he had “grave concerns about PASOK and the coalition”. I’m not surprised: slippery slob Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos has been up to every divisive trick in the book; but as to why this time, well – confusion reigns. Some believe he wants to make Samaras look weak and thus convince Berlin-am-Brussels that he is really the man with whom they should deal. One or two think he might be having some kind of breakdown as a result of his Party’s support rapidly disappearing in favour of Syriza and its leader Alexis Tsipras. And others still peddle the rumour that Evangelo’s game is geopolitics, linking him now with America, now with Israel, now with Brussels, now with Ankara.
The latest nickname for Venizelos is ‘Benito’, perhaps in the hope that he will one day be seen hanging upside down on a garage forecourt. Another joke insists that EV has to remain fat, in order to keep all the plots hidden in the folds of his skin. Certainly, he stands accused of at least ten conspiracies at any one time.
Having observed the Giant One for nearly two years all told, it’s perfectly possible that he’s up to all ten at once. But whatever he’s at, the growing feeling in the Greek capital is that Samaras is finished. “Samaras is considered a dead duck, with his days numbered following the latest Troika round of cuts,” another regular informant opines. As the thought of this probably brings on Frau Merkel’s occasional twitch, I’d venture to suggest that this is almost certainly the reason for her flying visit. But she does need to watch out for Grassy Knolls.
‘There is unusual activity of warships outside the port of Piraeus,’ emailed one source yesterday. As the Chinese just bought the port of Piraeus, a rumour immediately started that their fleet had arrived in order to protect the investment.
Perhaps it has arrived to rescue Venizelos, who may be secretly a double agent…and a potential danger to shipping if he winds up floating in the harbour one day.
It would be hard to exaggerate the degree to which the Pasok leader is despised in Greece: a Golden Dawn (hard Right) MP Ilias Kassidiaris told Parliament yesterday that Venizelos “causes vomiting throughout society”, but failed to make clear whether this was merely the Fat One constantly throwing up his third lunch (he does suffer from acidity) or other people heaving at the sight and sound of him. “What’s on your mind?” the Deputy Speaker asked, which was the opportunity Golden Dawn had been awaiting: as one, the Party’s MPs yelled, “Publish the Lagarde list!”
More on the List later (there have been further developments overnight) but for now it suffices to note that, having disrupted the proceedings, GD’s largely unpleasant Members left the Chamber screaming, “Crooks! Perjurors! Villains! Filth!” and other things I culdn’t possibly repeat in a family column. The great majority of Greeks – especially the Young – would endorse those sentiments entirely, and Golden Dawn’s support is growing. Their antics, however, continue to remind me of the yobbishness displayed on a daily basis between 1929 and 1932 by Nazi Deputies in the German Reichstag. They were led by Hermann Goering, who was also very fat. Perhaps Venizelos is his love-child. Let’s get a rumour started.
One thing very clearly not a rumour was the appearance of 450 somewhat truculent shipyard workers outside the National Defence Ministry in Athens last Thursday. Their protest is in turn completely factual: they haven’t been paid for more than 6 months, and are usually only offered one day per week of work. In my book that counts as a plausible grievance, but on hearing the news I was quite surprised that no CDU rentagobs went on German television to suggest that Greek shipyard workers are lazy for only working one day a week. This would be no more insane than the Troika declaring a six-day week when most Greeks are working a no-day week.
Anyway, a brave senior military bod came down to try and calm the workforce. Later, a Golden Dawn nutter in Parliament declared, “The officer was not wearing a hat and thus showed disrespect to our armed forces,” mysteriously adding, “And George Papandreu is only 25% Greek”. No matter how vivid your imagination, it would be impossible to dream up events like these. To those not involved, they sound funny: for most Greeks, they represent a nightmare – for the creation of which they bear little or no guilt….beyond continuing to vote for these gargoyles. But that’s something of which most Britons and Americans are equally guilty.