For a man about to give the financial community another headache, Alexis Tsipras looked very much the business executive. Suit a little too shiny, maybe… More a second-hand car salesman than a sober accountant…
There’s a touch of pop star about him.
He’ll be treated like a star over the coming few days. And he was when I met him - sweeping in with his entourage - to a meeting of ardent left wingers in a old Greek town hall a couple of years ago.
He wasn’t great at eye-contact when I eventually prised him from his adoring throng afterwards. And his “soundbite” was six minutes long. Nor did it contain any clear information about his alternative to the harsh austerity plans Greeks were being forced to undergo.
Well, it doesn’t matter whether I like the guy or not, does it? It’s more important to consider whether his plans for government are any more feasible, now, compared with then…
A phrase I used a lot at the time, in talking about the Eurozone crisis was that ghastly “kicking the can further down the road” cliche - a hope that events will get better, somehow, as long as an absolute crisis is postponed. And to a degree that’s happened…
The French and German (and other) banks then owed around €150 billion by Greece are healthier now.
Private bondholders agreed to walk away from 50% of their loans. And the other PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain) are stronger too.
Now Alexis Tsipras wants a further 50% reduction in his country’s debt burden - and this time he wants the public institutions, like the EU, ECB and IMF, to do the forgiving.
"That troika for Greece is a thing of the past," he said after his election success last night.
That’s a big ask, of course, and carries with it the risk of destabilising the whole sluggish Eurozone again. And of default and expulsion from the Eurozone, which ordinary Greeks would hate.
But with the Greek issue still such a thorn in the Eurozone’s side, and QE a signal that something’s still profoundly wrong, maybe the leader of Syriza is asking for something that’s a shade more imaginable now.
QE was hugely opposed by the Germans after all - could he push them for other concessions?
And many are pointing out that West Germany got half of its crippling debts cancelled after the Second World War. One of its co-operative creditors, back then? Greece.