The tale of Frankfurt’s Boris

For a mayor of a town which is in the pole position to become a Brexit winner and attract bankers from London, Peter Feldmann is surprisingly unfazed by this outlook. Frankfurt’s mayor wants a second term. Since he missed out a clear victory in the first round, there will be a second round on Sunday, 11 March. In his campaign Brexit and the prospect that the city’s financial sector will grow and might lead to considerably higher tax revenue does not play a role at all. Feldmann does rarely talk about the subject publicly. When he does, he sounds indifferent if not hostile. And the city does not do anything to convince London-based banks it is the place to move to.

A campaign poster in Frankfurt. The mayor Peter Feldmann wants a second term.

In a way, this reminds me of Boris Johnson. The former mayor of London – one of the most globalized cities, economically powerful and vibrant, with more than 270 nationalities – decided two years ago to become a Leave campaign’s prominent cheerleader, despite the fact that London will be a clear loser of Brexit.

It’s not really clear what Johnson truly believes in and what he only supports because it might bode well for his future career. People who know him always said he is not a real Brexiteer. But obviously he thought by campaigning for Leave and against Prime Minister David Cameron in 2016 this would give him better chances to enter Downing Street. Therefore he changed his tune.

We have not lived long enough in Frankfurt to follow Feldmann and his views on the financial industry and bankers in all those years. What he said in recent months was a bit bizarre, though. He said that estimates about how many bankers might come to Frankfurt were made up. But most of the time he has kept silent about that topic. Nothing passed his lips about the chances Brexit offers and how to benefit from them.

People in his party SPD (Social Democratic Party) campaigning for him on the streets back his strategy of not making the case for Brexit. “Given the reputation of bankers, you cannot really tout them”, one of the SPD supporters told me while canvassing for Feldmann. Given the large problems Frankfurt is having with housing shortage you cannot really attract more well paid bankers who push up property prices and rents and squeeze out people on middle incomes, added another.

Yes, housing shortages have been a problem for Frankfurt for quite some time. But Feldmann has not really tackled it effectively. The number of affordable homes has shrunk in the recent years. And it’s not just bankers who intensify the problem but all the others who move to Frankfurt attracted by the companies based here and the job prospects.

But instead of embracing all this and make the best out of it by arguing the additional tax income the finance industry will bring Frankfurt might be invested in housing Feldmann stays close to the thinking of the ordinary guy on the street who rejects more bankers and the finance industry. That’s how Feldmann got his first term and it quite probably will win him another election.

Obviously Feldmann does better than Boris Johnson in this regard whose ambition to enter Downing Street seem to be out of reach.

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