Richard Porritt's Agenda: Merkel's domestic discomfort, the cult of Corbyn and a pair of magic trousers

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 November 2017

Angela Merkel leaves the Bellevue Palace in Berlin

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A look at the week's big stories, including a riddle over Jeremy Corbyn's name, the fresh-faced new mayor of Lübeck and France's averted butter crisis

Angela Merkel’s domestic discomfort has been the source of some schadenfreude for the Brexit brigade with Jacob Rees-Mogg, predictably, among those suggesting it could give the UK some handy leverage in the stalled talks.

The truth is surely that developments in Berlin, and the distractions they have created for the EU’s most prominent leader, will do nothing to improve the chances of significant progress in the Brexit talks, even with offer from London of extra cash for the ‘divorce bill’.

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“Labour has not and never will become a personality cult”, one party stalwart told me back at conference.

“No one man – or woman – is bigger than the party. That has always been the case and nothing has changed even if thousands of students chanted Jeremy’s name at Glastonbury.”

And so to the party’s new website, developed by the digital gurus behind Bernie Sanders’ impressive effort to run for president, Wide Eye Creative.

The landing page shows a video shot mainly during the general election campaign. Now, as Labour is not a personality cult you’d expect all the front bench to appear?

Nope, just Jezza.

What about the pictures on the home page? Two – both of Jeremy. It seems he not only fancies himself as Britain’s Bernie Sanders but as Labour’s first presidential candidate.

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And it turns out it could have been very different for Comrade Jeremy and those adoring Glasto crowds.

His mum revealed that the Labour leader’s dad David changed the name the couple had agreed when he went to register the birth back in 1949.

But frustratingly she refused to tell Jeremy what his name was actually supposed to be before she passed way in 1987.

Would it even have fit into the Seven Nation Army rhythm that now follows him around everywhere he goes?

The most popular names from the year he was born were perennial favourites James, Robert and John.

Other names on the list included Kevin, Wayne and Randy. None of which I can imagine being chanted by a festival crowd.

Catalonia’s deposed government has launched a new website.

Carles Puigdemont’s cabinet used the new platform to proudly declare themselves the “legitimate government” and the site contains all you would need to know about the activities planned in the run up to the regional elections on December 21.

One of the lead pictures on the site shows the cabinet standing behind Puigdemont as he spoke prior to the declaration of independence last month. But, look closely, and you will spot a pair of brown trousers seemingly standing upright unaided. What kind of magic is this?

Well, the picture was actually taken before former business minister Santi Vila quit his role just a day before the declaration. And getting the gang back together for a new snap is, obviously, rather tricky at the moment.

So a crack team of photoshoppers were tasked with erasing him and re-creating the wall behind. The only problem being they left his legs in. Oops.

But Vila obviously didn’t leave his wallet in his trousers. Unlike the rest of the Catalan leaders he was offered bail – and stumped up the 50,000 euros.

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Amid the turmoil in the Bundestag at least one German has managed to take office this week.

Jan Lindenau is the new mayor of the northern city of Lübeck. And he has made history by becoming the youngest leader the city has ever elected.

The 38-year-old Social Democrat will not take charge of the city until next May when Bernd Saxe leaves after 18 years in office.
But although he may be a fresh new face, Lindenau’s biggest challenge is as old as politics itself – funding the promises you’ve made to get elected. The port city, on the Baltic Sea, has racked up rather a lot of debt in recent years and cuts could be on the cards. But Lindenau won by reassuring residents he would improve the services provided and ensure the traffic that often cripples the city flows again. Good luck.

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A butter crisis has been averted in France. Thank goodness.

It had appeared the traditional galette des rois and bûche de Noël could be off menus this Christmas after empty shelves began appearing in supermarkets.

For weeks the media covered the supposedly impending butter shortages, causing a 41% spike in sales as people rushed out and filled their car boots with the dairy product. But with the shelves now restocked, what was it that averted disaster? Well, in part it seems the panic buying was to blame – if everyone had just bought their usual amount there would have been no scarcity.

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