Smart Thinking

Is Sebastian Kurz (right) winging it?

Sebastian Kurz is set to become the world’s youngest leader. Here’s hoping he’s made of the right stuff

So, the right wing has made a return in Austria, assuming Sebastian Kurz can form a government, that is. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t though, given that the People’s Party and the Freedom Party he’s in discussion with tread equally hard lines on the welfare state, immigration and border controls.

You’ll doubtless know (because every news organisation in the western world seems intent on telling us) that this is the latest in a succession of elections which are signalling that Europe is embracing right-wing politics en masse. It’s an unsettling turn of events to say the least.

Then, there’s Kurz’s age. At 31 years old, he’s set to become the youngest head of state in the world.

“Never mind his politics, Kurz is young, hip and the fashionable choice”

That in itself is polarising. As political consultant Stefan Petzner, a former adviser to the Freedom Party, puts it, ‘people used to feel shame in saying they were for the Freedom Party, because others would say, “you’re a Nazi.” Now, the people’s party is in the same position, but saying you’re for Kurz is sexy, it’s cool.’

Far be it from me to condemn the man simply because he’s young, but history has taught us that young leaders consistently disappoint, despite their galvanising energy and bright-eyed promises. Blair was 43 when he was elected in 1997, which made him the youngest Prime Minister since 1880 and the tide of optimism he swept in on dissipated almost as swiftly as it arrived.

Look to the world’s other under 30s currently serving as heads of state and the list makes for troublesome reading. He’s got a year on the 32 year old Enrico Carattoni, Captain Regent of San Marino and he’s three years younger than Kim Jong-Un. To put it mildly, neither has made a terribly positive impact upon the global stage.

But never mind that, because Kurz is young, hip and he’s a fashionable choice. He’s talked a good game, playing on the Austrian people’s immigration fears and they’ve responded to his smooth presentation and punchy rhetoric accordingly.

Kurz is promising a bright new era for Austria, let’s hope he delivers.