Monday, May 07, 2012

France's Left Turn

I think the Daily Mail adds considerably to the jollity of our lives.  This staunch opponent of the euro suddenly finds itself expressing outrage at the possibility that the new leftie in the Elysee might now ruin everything, as its incandescent headline screams this morning!  This, at its most vigorous, is the right-wing mantra today, but the real fear for governments still practising austerity must surely be if the French and Greek abandonments of that programme start to, er, work.  The idea that more government spending might kick start the economy, bring a bit of a boost back to people's spending power and even create more jobs would surely be intolerable in Britain and Germany at the moment.

Otherwise, Francois Hollande's victory could be used as a case study in the triumph of being boring over being charismatic, having a 'partner' rather than a glamorous model wife; it could be used to illustrate the enduring power of France's natural political elite, the 'enarques' (Hollande is another graduate of the hugely influential ENA, unlike Sarkozy, and one of his putative prime ministers, Martine Aubry, is none other than the daughter of Jaques Delors) thus adding to the belief that western politics is becoming too oligarchical (Ferdinand Mount tackles this in his excellent new book, "The New Few"); or it might show us that it is possible for a nation to turn out and vote in large numbers (just over 80%) and require us to work out why on earth we don't. And Hollande might be counting himself a lucky man.  Having been required to watch his then partner, Segolene Royale, assume the socialist candidacy for president last time round, it seems unlikely that he would have taken it this time but for the unfortunate incident that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had with a maid in a New York hotel.  You see, adultery can help people - just not those engaged in the specific act.

Whatever you choose to investigate, the French election has suddenly turned out to be a bit of a game changer, not just for the rejoicing socialists - back in power after a 17 year desert - but for a Europe hit by an ongoing personality crisis.  With Cameron and Merkel racing to the phones (and oh dear, what bad politics it now looks to have been for Cameron to have refused to meet with Hollande in February) the French aren't the only ones wondering how all this will turn out.

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