The Germans invented the word. But Schadenfreude was laced through much European coverage of Theresa May's Brexit election campaign.

The prime minister, once a Remainer, has became the pin-up for British nativism on the continent. And many commenters can barely conceal their delight that Thursday's election was not the push-over she had thought.

Europe's best-selling paper, Germany's populist and conservative Bild, gleefully described Mrs May's campaign as a "disaster". Accompanied with an unflattering slack-jawed photo of the Tory leader, the tabloid last week ran the headline "Why Theresa May has suddenly lost all credit with the Brits".

On the eve of poll the paper made it clear to its large working class readership that the Conservative could hurt them as well as her own people. "Thursday's vote could have grave consequences for Germany," Bild headlined on Wednesday.

This is the thrust of European coverage of Britain's elections: the UK's struggling economy - only Greece can match falling real incomes here - hurts, for example, German exports. The collapse of the pound and post-Brexit chaos could do even more damage. Bild quoted Fabian Zuleeg of the European Policy Centre, a think tank. The "extreme uncertainty" of a hard Brexit, he said, could shave several tenths of a percentage point off German growth. That, he said, would be a "drastic cut".

Bild: Brexit has grave consequences for Germany too


The front cover of Swedish news magazine Fokus was widely shared on UK social media after it ran another unfortunate image of Mrs May emblazoned on a union flag under the headline "Mayday! Mayday". The Tories, the subheader declared in Swedish, were "sinking at full sail", a wonderful idiom suggesting her party was going down, even if, in her pomp, she does not realise it.



Ahead of polls opening the common narrative across the EU seemed to be that Mrs May would lose on Thursday, even if she won. El País, in Madrid, was scathing in its election analysis. The UK Prime Minister was "la dama de porcelana", according to British writer John Carlin. "Theresa May wanted to present herself as Iron Lady 2.0.

She did nothing wrong in her first six months as prime minister within her parliamentary comfort zone. But ever since she started the campaign and came under public scrutiny day after day, she has appeared inadequate, turned in to a porcelain lady, hard on the outside but soft on the inside."

El País's more conservative rival, ABC, was even less flattering. Mrs May, it said, was a "pyromaniac firefighter" Its theory: the Tories first set the fire burning down Britain - Brexit - and are now claiming they are the only force that can put the blaze out.

Milan's Corriere della Sera had a little more comfort, albeit under the headline "All Premier May's Missteps". Mayism, it said, should not be dumped altogether after finding a third way between globalism and nationalism and avoiding the wave of populism across Europe. But it added that this was no more "rhetorical packaging than a coherent set of policies". Whatever happened on Thursday, it concluded Mrs May "will come out heavily damaged both at home and abroad".

In Paris, there is scarcely more sympathy for Mrs May than in Madrid, Berlin or Milan. The Prime Minister, said Le Monde, had "trapped herself" after thinking she, as a "hard Brexit partisan", had a clear run at increasing her majority against a "moribund Labour led by a dinosaur".

The old lizard they were referring to, of course, was Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader has been the subject of numerous profiles in continental papers this week amid the spectre of a "red in Downing Street", as several Italian papers put it. Switzerland's 24 Heures talked of the "revenge of the Papy Gauchiste or lefty Granddad".

But Mr Corbyn remains a mystery overseas. Irish Times columnist Jon Smith - who is British - set out why he thought Irish people in the UK should vote to stop a hard Brexit. Ireland, after all, has more to lose than almost any EU nation from the UK leaving the bloc. Mr Smith admitted Mr Corbyn was a "stumbling block" because voters did not think the one-time Labour firebrand was a PM. But the journalist added: "If May faced the same level of media scrutiny as Corbyn, more people would be questioning whether she constitutes “prime ministerial material”.

The Irish Times writer also expressed frustration at Tory rhetoric on Mr Corbyn meeting Sinn Fein when they were doing the same.

Outside the EU, Russia's RIA Novosti, which is very close to the Kremlin, matter-of-factly reported that a Corbyn administration would likely be more constructive in its relationship with Mr Putin (and repeated that Mrs May had urged US President Donald Trump to watch the Russians carefully).

The Labour leader in America sometimes portrayed as a kind of Bernie Sanders, the veteran socialist who failed to win the Democratic nomination to take on Mr Trump. But there are worries about the Labour man too. A New York Times columnist, the conservative Ross Douthat, linked Mr Corbyn to two other Kremlin favourites, the American president and failed French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

Mr Douthat, citing alleged anti-semitism on the Labour far left, called Mr Corbyn a different kind of Trumpian". He said: "Corbyn’s inner circle has a minimising tendency where the crimes of Stalinism are concerned, plus the equally inevitable far-left affinity for Latin American authoritarianism.

"If the spectre of long-ago Vichy lurked behind Le Penism, the spectre of present-day Venezuela lurks not that far in the background of Corbynism."

The American acknowledged the difference between French chauvinism and Mr Corbyn's lefty internationalism. But a Labour government may not go down well across the pond.