The new leader of Germany’s Social Democrats has pledged a return to core values while promising continued cooperation in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition.Kurt Beck, state premier of Rhineland-Pfalz, was elected chairman of the SPD with more than 95 percent of the vote. He succeeds Matthias Platzeck who resigned for health reasons after just five months in office. A jovial, popular leader, 57-year old Beck has been re-elected three times at the head of Rheinland-Pfalz. Described as a man of the people, he opens the door of his home to his constituents every other Sunday. The son of a bricklayer, Beck was trained as an electrician. He is married with one son. A traditional Social Democrat, he has always sought close ties with the trade unions, while backing former chancellor Gerhard Schroder’s reform policies. His pragmatic and prudent approach has yielded positive economic results for the state of Rheinland-Pflalz. Addressing the crowd that elected him as party chairman, Beck said the Social Democrats have to overcome their differences and draw strength from unity to be a decisive power in Germany. “This is and remains our goal,” he said, “and I ask you to put your trust in me.” He added he was ready to take on the challenges facing his party which has been losing ground in recent polls opposite Angela Merkel’s conservatives. Many are pinning hopes on Beck to revitalise the party and win back votes lost in the last election.