“I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride”; so said outgoing Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis yesterday, as he announced his post-referendum resignation with characteristic acerbic wit. Such blunt openness is chiefly why it’s Varoufakis, and not Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, who’s been hogging the press attention as the crisis in Greece has unfolded. In just a short time, Varoufakis has made a huge impact in world politics and challenged the shaky status quo in Europe. Now apparent pressure from other European finance ministers and his own party has meant Varoufakis’s ministerial job will go to another.
Varoufakis’s resignation-with-a-push is no doubt in part down to his laissez-faire approach to life – saying what he likes about who he likes, or doesn’t, and pressing on with what he believes in even in the face of staunch opposition. Varoufakis is nothing like our finance minister in the UK, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. In appearance alone they are strikingly dissimilar. Whereas Osborne’s an ill-fitted suit-and-tie man nervously holding a battered red briefcase, Varoufakis prefers leather jacket and t-shirt, looking every bit like the shaven-headed gym instructor to Osborne’s uptight, plastic-haired estate agent.
Predictably, in dealing with a politician slightly off-centre, the world’s media has presented Varoufakis as some kind of rock star, a motorcycle-riding rebel with a wife who inspires hit Pulp songs. It’s a distraction – Varoufakis may appear outwardly meme-worthy, but he’s been the real deal for Greece, negotiating tirelessly with a ruthless Europe over whether or not the country deserves a paddle whilst they’re up shit creek. George Osborne, in contrast, is the personification of cronyism in British politics, a long-time friend of the PM who found his way into the Conservative Party through an Oxford contact. One sweats over crucial meetings in Europe, the other can’t even stay tuned in for PMQs. If one appears to care too much, the other sometimes doesn’t appear to care at all.