From earthquakes to milkshakes, May madness abounds

I would rarely post twice with such frequency, but I realised that the speed of unfolding events means that posts with be outdated before I click send/publish otherwise.

I’d not really caught up with Friday’s news story until I spent yesterday morning in a Kaffeehaus. The story has become the second big alcohol-induced departure from the politic scene in Austria (after Jörg Haider’s decision to combine alcoholic catatonia with a drive home). Strache’s hangover has taken approaching two years to hit him. Red Bull really does give you wings.

In a period of 72 hours, we have seen a coalition collapse in what has proven to be a tale of rampant drunken machoism, and dubious honey-trapping, with the veracity of the footage having been confirmed apparently (to have elicited apologies from HC surely must be proof enough, given his record of controversy and inability to apologise). The stage was an expense holiday property on the island of Ibiza. Seven hours of footage apparently exist, and now there is a countdown timer running on a website that is apparently the work of a German satirist, who apparently seemed to know about know about the “Ibizagate” video unfolded before it was published. This adds a new dynamic to the situation is so bizarre that it is surreal.

The surreal-o-meter is cranked up a further notch in that an OTS press release that was published in 2017 comes to light that apparently is connected to Ibizagate. In Austria, journalists use their initials for attribution purposes, but in this OTS report the set of initials turns out to be a famous quote about dubious lobbying practices (and maybe the odd little kickback!) – namely

wer/zah/lts/chaf/ft/an

This can be read as “Wer zahlt, schafft an” (He who pays, gets the deal!). Amazingly this went through unnoticed a couple of years back. I expect there will be a combing of the OTS messages now by the tinfoil hat brigade looking out for other messages.

The ORF has gone into overdrive in its political coverage. As I was out on my walk through the vineyards on Saturday, news broke that Strache and Gudenus had gone. The awaited statement by Sebastian Kurz, followed by one by President Van der Bellen, threatened to knock Eurovision off its perch on Saturday.

As I turned off the television last evening having had an enjoyable supper with one of my wife’s colleagues and her husband to help them plan their trip to Southern England, I displayed greater excitement about politics in Austria than I might have ever done before. Despite not being able to vote.

My wife’s colleague told us about wahlkabine.at as a site which apparently tells you how you ought to vote at the forthcoming EU elections, based on your views on various policies and based on how you weight their importance. Apparently I should vote KPÖ. One follower on twitter suggests I should be addressed as Comrade Curmudgeon, I’ll stick to Komm. Rat Curmudgeon if I may.

With Austria’s government imploding, Sebastian Kurz tries to come across as a one-man team and superhero (albeit without a cape and his underpants still firmly under his suit) given his apparent unwillingness to talk to other parties about the issue, as it seems he was already planning to go it alone rather than consider a grand coalition. The FPÖ still has a trick up its sleeve, given that it also controls the Innenministerium, or so it thinks until Kurz requests Herbert Kickl’s removal from the Ministry. Kickl tries to call his bluff by threatening to withdraw all the FPÖ’s ministers. But Kurz sees through this by suggesting a temporary government filled by experts to allow the government to continue to operate until new elections are held in September. Watch this space.

When I spoke to my brother on Sunday with talk of “snap elections” in the air, he burst that balloon. He remarked that only Austria would call a snap election in May to take place in September, and he is right that surely an election could be held in the Summer, given that Britain can call one at six weeks’ notice.

Amazingly though, HC’s grinning and frequently defaced bonce still stands proud on the election poster boards. As I went up Obkirchergasse on Saturday, just after he resigned I remarked to myself as I passed one of the boards that I wondered how quickly the FPÖ propaganda machine would fire up the printing presses to replace their poster boy dental technician. Possibly the number of heads to roll and swords to be fallen on mean that there are no new poster boys or girls for them. And Vilimsky’s gammony features on their own will not convince anyone.

Which leads me to the milkshake phenomenon. Yesterday, while on walkabout in Newcastle, Nigel Farage had a milkshake thrown at him. The milkshake is the instrument of protest of the season. There are reports that McDonalds are being requested not to sell milkshakes if politicians are out and about, to avoid impressionable hoodlums from using them as a missile. The egg has been ousted as the weapon of choice.

In about 48 hours in the UK will start the EU elections, in what could be very symbolic. Farage’s new mob – UKIP is too nasty for him – seem to apparently have 30% of the vote, even though they have no policies, strange donation structures rather than members and seem to have recruited a ragtag bunch of sociopaths and borderline unhinged.

These are EU elections that the UK must participate in due to its abject failure to leave the EU as promised by the end of March/mid April. Whether the UK’s cohort of MEPs will ever enter the European Parliament is also unsure. Conservatives and Labour have plummeted in the opinion polls, after all they are both clearly not in favour of remaining in the EU. May has teased her MPs with a promise to stand down at the start of June, in a fourth (and final?) attempt to get the Withdrawal Agreement through parliament. Cross-party talks failed and she blames Corbyn for their failure.

So dear readers, it is time to hold onto your hats, as there are exciting times of subterfuge, intrigue, political chicanery, topped with conspiracy, claim and counterclaim. This story will doubtless run and run.

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