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Otto Lambsdorff; OBITUARY.

THE conventional descriptions of politicians in terms of left and right can often break down when faced with a true maverick.

It can be seen in this country when politicians of seemingly irreconcilable positions suddenly start to make common cause over some issue or another, and it could certainly be seen in Germany in the 1960s, when Count Otto Lambsdorff seemed to be leading his Free Democrats, the FDP and conventionally regarded as equivalent to Britain's Liberals, in a variety of different directions.

Germany's main parties needed the FDP in the 1970s to secure a stable government, and so it came to pass that Helmut Schmidt's Social Democrats linked up with the FDP and made Lambsdorff Finance Minister in 1977.

But Lambsdorff was a free marketeer through and through, with a lot in common with Margaret Thatcher in Britain, and eventually he broke with Schmidt and the Social Democrats.

The result was to propel the Conservative or Christian Democrat, Helmut Kohl, into office as chancellor, with Lambsdorff carrying on as before as finance minister.

He had been born into an aristocratic family with string links to Czarist Russia, joining the German army in the closing months of World War Two, where he was injured in an air raid and lost part of his leg.

He studied as a lawyer in the immediate post-war years and also worked in banking and insurance.

At the same time, he had joined the FDP in 1951, and was eventually elected to the Federal German parliament, the Bundestag, in 1972.

His political career seemed to have come to a screeching halt in 1982, when he was accused of taking bribes for the FDP from the Flick industrial concern.

The bribery charges were eventually dropped and he was only convicted of tax fraud on behalf of the FDP. Nevertheless, he had to stand down as finance minister, although he continued as leader of his party until 1993, eventually leaving the Bundestag in 1998.

Count Otto Lambsdorff, politician; born, December 20, 1926, died, December 5, 2009
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Dec 9, 2009
Words:339
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