The direction moves the Munich party leader a little to the left, back a little, then a bit further to the left so that he can get out of the white SPD logo that the beamer throws onto the screen behind him. Finally, Christian Köning is right, in front of a red illuminated background, and can open the party conference, which should also put the Munich SPD in a slightly different light. The Social Democrats want to present themselves as more modern, younger and more progressive. In his welcome speech, Koening said he was incredibly happy who all had come, God and the world. “I hope that this party congress will give a signal of departure.”
God and the world may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the SPD has invited many external guests for its new party conference format on Saturday, for example from the promised city of Vienna, which can do many things so well that Munich would also like to be able to do. Professor Doris Aschenbrenner came from Aalen University to speak about her special field, namely digital methods in production. Many works councils have appeared for this purpose, after all, the socio-ecological transformation of the economy is one of the main topics of the party congress, alongside the future of municipal services of general interest and the digital further development of the city.
The three main topics are discussed with the experts in so-called panels before the motions are decided in the plenary session. Since the somewhat dark theater in the Kolping House, where the SPD often meets, is not suitable for these discussions in small groups or for casual side talks in a lounge atmosphere, the Social Democrats have rented a conference center in Bogenhausen. There are significantly more children running around than usual, for whom there is their own care. The Jusos have apparently mobilized well, because the long-valid SPD indicator of the gray hair stands out much less than usual.
The new format is well received
This time the party conference is “super cool”, says Juso city chairman Benedict Lang. No matter who you ask, the SPD and their Jusos seem to agree on this. Possibly also a new future trend? There are still different views, it’s just not being voiced so loudly, explains Lang. This may also be the case because the current SPD city boss was Lang’s direct predecessor at the Munich Jusos.
When the party friends spread out in three different halls for the technical discussions, Köning explains why he and his team came up with the “Progress Party Congress,” as it is officially called. He was inspired by the federal party’s debate convention. The SPD is a participatory party that lives from the commitment of its members. He wants to offer attractive events in order to keep it or to encourage it. “Otherwise nobody will come.” You have to “break up a ritual” sometimes, but Köning warns against expecting that every time. The SPD could not afford that financially. But if, after this party conference, the participants at work or the neighbors would tell you that it was great, “then the goal has been reached”.
His predecessor at the Munich SPD leadership, the member of the Bundestag Claudia Thousand, complimented him right at the beginning. “New brooms sweep well,” she says. But of course they also have to struggle with the classics of an SPD party conference. From the late start to the election of the mandate verification and counting commission to the absence of Mayor Dieter Reiter. Dealing with the competition is also part of the program. In his speech, Köning reproaches the Greens for their “bullerby” policy and the CSU for their populism in the green space referendum. “Progress in Munich is linked to the SPD. We have been governing our city successfully for decades and now want to take care of future issues with new impetus.”
As evidence of this, the SPD has invited a top manager: Stadtwerke boss and party member Florian Bieberbach. He emphasizes the importance of municipal subsidiaries for services of general interest, as the cornerstone of a sustainable community. He also warns that the cities should not let private companies take the digitization of public life out of their hands. Since he doesn’t forget to pay tribute to the SPD’s merits, his speech warms the hearts of party friends. However, they surprisingly leave one topic aside: the state elections on October 8th. But maybe the Social Democrats just don’t want to let their mood spoil because of the bleak prospects.