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Green Minister Robert Habeck: How could he have sold the heat transition better?

Photo: Christophe Gateau / dpa

MIRROR: Mr. Maurer, the Greens are losing support, Robert Habeck has gone from being the most popular to one of the most unpopular ministers. Is this due to communication?

Bricklayer: First of all, this is the problem of the decision itself, which for many people is an imposition, a real problem. All you have to do is drive through the villages, for example in eastern Germany. You can see that many people don't have the money to repair their own house. These people will find it difficult to understand why, if their heating system is broken and cannot be repaired, they should install a heat pump but cannot even paint their house.

MIRROR: One accusation in the heating debate is that the Greens are empathetic towards the so-called little people, ignorant and do not understand their everyday lives. Is that true?

Bricklayer: I don't think it's about a lack of empathy. Politicians generally tend not to think about people outside their own world. This is not peculiar to the Greens. But they are now the ones who have to drive the energy transition, and as a minister, Habeck has to explain and elaborate it. And there is the basic problem that many things that mean financial impositions are collapsing and people have the impression that politicians now want to continue with the crowbar: be it with the heat pump or the property tax.

MIRROR: How could Habeck have sold the heat transition better?

Bricklayer: Basically, more cautious, thoughtful communication would be helpful. Roughly speaking, the following steps must be right if you want to bring drastic changes to the population:

  • You have to be in control. It is very unfortunate that Habeck's plans were punctured and thus made public in advance.

  • Instead, he himself could have announced his project in a big interview, with all the hardships that this entails, possible cushions and solid technical concepts.

  • Thirdly, it is important to communicate such a project constructively, to take a positive look into the future. What is it supposed to be good for, what does it mean good for the individual in the end?

All this would make it easier for people to accept an imposition. Of course, there would still be resistance and criticism, but as a politician you have to expect and live with that.

MIRROR: The SPD is cautious about Habeck's heating plans, while the FDP is openly critical. Do the Greens have a chance of successfully communicating the issue on their own?

Bricklayer: The SPD will have good reasons why it does not get involved. She doesn't want to lose any more votes. For the coalition, however, this is not a good sign, this lack of solidarity. And also from the point of view of the leadership that Chancellor Olaf Scholz has promised, the SPD's refusal to stay out of it is of course doubtful and not helpful for implementation.

MIRROR: Habeck is actually considered a great communication talent, but seems to be acting unhappily at the moment. Why is that?

Bricklayer: In any case, I have actually been asked several times in the past to explain in interviews how great Habeck communicates. But I see it more like this: Habeck has spoken wisely by repeatedly addressing his own doubts. But I didn't find it unusual at the time and now I don't find it underground. At the beginning of a term, before the big decisions have to be made, it is easy to talk well. It is difficult for everyone to sell impositions later.

MIRROR: Is the treatment of the Greens in the debate on the heating law unfair?

Bricklayer: All impositions are first viewed critically, which also has to do with the self-image of journalists. This was the case with Hartz IV, for example, with the VAT increase. Proposals are picked apart, their negative aspects emphasized. This is not unfair, but normal. For example, the accusation that the FDP forgets the little people is constantly there. Now the Greens are the ones who get it because they make decisions. Nevertheless, there are excesses that go beyond this appropriately critical view. Of course, the »Bild« is waging a campaign against the Greens and is acting as if all heating systems have to be replaced the day after tomorrow.

MIRROR: Most recently, leading Greens also complained about an alleged campaign in the affair of State Secretary Graichen. Habeck himself spoke before Bundestag committees of malice, defamation. Are the Greens too easily offended?

Bricklayer: In any case, I think it is unwise to give the impression that this is just a campaign and that there are no real problems and mistakes behind the allegations. It is not so easy for the Greens to get used to criticism. You have been in opposition for a long time. Now they are in government and it is everyday life that you are taken apart. And once you have become vulnerable, people continue to search everywhere, as is now the case with Graichen's dissertation. It's not pretty, but it's part of the business, it's always existed in the past. The Greens have to live with that.