By Dirk Haarman
In August Ronald Schill, interior minister in Hamburg city-state, was sacked after he allegedly tried to blackmail Ole von Beust, the Christian Democratic mayor of the city whose party forms a coalition with Schill's own party. This was the political end of Germany's best-known rightwing populist politician, once dubbed Judge Merciless, and often compared with Joerg Haider of Austria.
Mr Schill shot to fame in Germany in 2001 when his tiny "law-and-order" party (the Schill Party) won just over 19 per cent of the vote in city-state elections, finishing 50 years of SPD rule. Schill, a former judge, claimed to stand for ordinary people fighting against social-democratic corruption, "immigrant crime", drug dealers and squatters.
Schill was opposed by a coalition of leftwing artists, the public services and teachers union, as well as "Bambule-activists", so called after a square they lived in old caravans and portakabins. Hamburg saw huge demonstrations in the past two years, tightening the links between trade unionists, socialists and anti globalisation activists. Even the policemen's union - where Schill had strong support - joined the protest against the senate after facing massive cuts in public spending.
The protests grew massively after Schill used Germany's flood catastrophe last year to criticise immigrants. He said they were grabbing money needed to help "Germans" affected by the flood. Finally the attempt to chase away the "Bambule" folk and banish them from the city sparked a protest the senate was unable to cope with. Regular demonstrations and clashes with the police force followed, involving more and more "ordinary people", football supporters of the left wing football club St Pauli, and trade unionists, later merging with the anti-war movement.