How the British are consuming French politics…

The way thing stand at the moment it looks like the Sego/Sarko stand off is only likely to finish one way, a victory for the hyperactive, ambitious, workaholic Nicolas Sarkozy over the Socialist Party’s hopeful Ségolène Royal (in French). French Election 2007 reports on the latest TNS-Sofres poll:

According to the poll, 8% of voters are still deciding between the two candidates, and another 7% are deciding whether or not to abstain. The poll also reaffirms the rapid shift of Bayrou supporters from Sarkozy to Royal. Before last weekend’s vote a majority of Bayrou voters were planning on voting Sarkozy in the runoff, but now 51% of the French believe that a Bayrou-Royal alliance would be natural, against only 33% for the same with Sarkozy. To reinforce this point, 52% of voters believe that Royal’s victory would most likely allow take into account Bayrou’s ideas; only 27% believe a Sarkozy victory would do the same.

But if this is bad news for Sarkozy at the center, he still has support in one of the most crucial arenas. 64% of the French believe Sarkozy will bring “many or quite some changes”, with Royal lagging at a dismal 38%. Will voters vote for change over the center? At this point, it appears so.

But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this potential revolution in French political life is the way it is being consumed elsewhere. Not least in Blairite Britain, where, according to Martin Kettle, a significant chunk of the left of centre are privately backing right of centre Sarkozy and his promise of reforms:

From Downing Street Sarkozy is seen as everything that Jacques Chirac is not. A Sarkozy victory, they believe there, would mean an end to Chirac’s anti-Americanism, a short practical treaty in place of the EU constitution, and the prospect of greater flexibility on trade, regulation and the European budget. So dazzling are these prizes after the frustrations of the past that the major uncongenial aspects of a Sarkozy win – his hostility to Turkey, his protectionism and his support for the CAP – are simply ignored.

Sarkozy’s most prominent rise to fame was for remarks made during the riots in certain Parisian suburbs following the deaths of two young Muslim men of African descent. It did not endear him to many on the left. But Kettle, taking a straw poll in Westminster finds untrouble consensus on the right, but conflicted emotions on the left:

Only the Conservatives have no mixed feelings; they are all for Sarkozy. Among Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs the reaction is far more conflicted. In many cases they answered that the heart said Ségo but the head said Sarko. A Labour cabinet minister was one of the few unambiguous Royal backers. A Lib Dem pro-European was among the most trenchant supporters of Sarkozy.

Gordon Brown is ambiguous on this question too. He knows Sarkozy from their days as fellow finance ministers. The Browns and Sarkozys have dined à quatre. Most importantly of all, Brown is comfortable with Sarkozy’s deregulatory economic instincts and with his openness to America. And yet Brown hesitates. When Sarkozy launched his election campaign in London, Blair met him while Brown made his excuses. Brown has put out feelers towards the Royal camp too, which Blair has not. But which side is Brown really on?

In truth, Kettle believes, Brown is going to be stuck with a Foreign Policy hand he can do little with, without the help and cooperation of others:

Those who expect Brown to strike out on a markedly more progressive foreign policy are therefore likely to be disappointed on matters of substance. But that is not Brown’s fault. It is the hand that he is fated to play by history and politics. Brown can say he wants to bring peace to the Middle East, end suffering in Darfur or reduce the nuclear build-up. But he can only do that in alliance with others, and maybe not even then. He will deal with Sarkozy or Royal because he has to, not because he wants to.

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  • Mick

    I would differ slightly with you on a few points, firstly when Martin Kettle claims that many on the center left support a Sarkozy victory, he in reality means the small coterie he mixes with within the Parliamentary LP and Blairs office. This is simply a reflection of just how much the LP in parliament has changed during the years of NL, the lay of the land is somewhat different within the LP in the country as a whole, the overwhelming majority if whom favor Ms Royal.

    As to foreign policy under Gordon Brown, in my view a single act would remove Cameron as a viable opposition figure and a grateful nation would push Brown to the fore. It is not rocket science, but were Brown to announce he was withdrawing troops from Iraq he would have the country behind him and more to the point he would undercut Cameron at a stroke due to his support for the war etc.

    As to the election in France, all is still to play for and I hope and believe Ms Royal will prevail. If not the French people will be in for an extremely rocky ride under Mr Sarkosy, as it will be back to the barricades and street politics in defense of the welfare state and fair and just employment laws etc.

  • lib2016

    It is a measure of just how far right our politics are here that Sarkozy is seen as the friend of New Labour, just as the Italian socialists and the previous far right government in Spain were.

    Of course even conservative governments like the current German government and a possible Sarkozy administration wouldn’t want to be seen as allies of the Conservative Party – that would be a step too far for anyone who wants to live in the real world.

    Prodi and the Italian socialists together with the Spanish socialist government have openly backed Royal. If New Labour make the mistake of being seen to back Sarkozy it will lead to tears. The opposition to him on the ground is enormous and he will not be able to introduce his promised Thatcherite reforms. In fact the resistance will make the miner’s strike look like a picnic.

  • Ginfizz

    Yeah Mick, because if France needs one thing, it needs more state-orientated welfarism and trade union/student power. Sarko’s the man to bring France into the 21st Century and finally tackle France’s own post-war consensus which has turned the country into an economic basket-case. He also represents (as noted above) a more sensible European policy, which is capable of bringing about a much greater degree of unanimity than was possible under Chirac and most certainly would be possible under the Socialists and that is why he’s going to win.

  • Ginfizz

    BTW Lib, the “Thatcherite reforms”, which you so despise actually turned the British economy around and made us an international player again.

  • lib2016

    Ginfizz,

    ‘…the’Thatcherite reforms’, —- made us an international player again.’

    Thatcher isolated Britain so badly that her own party was forced to throw her out! Blair has succeeded in reinforcing Britain’s isolation by being seen to be Bush’s most loyal henchman. The Democrats in the USA are really going to appreciate that while Britain has lost all credibility in the rest of the world, most importantly in Europe.

  • Ginfizz

    Lib

    Sorry but that’s not true, the Tory Party threw Thatcher out because they were convinced they couldn’t win a general election with her as leader because of the Poll Tax. When I refer to an international player, I am referring to our position as a world economic player.

    Foreign policy is now in a state of flux, with Brown likely to pursue a different approach from Blair (though perhaps not fundamentally different). However, the fact remains unaltered that the economic liberalisation introduced by Mrs. Thatcher laid the foundation for the economic prosperity that we now enjoy. France needs the same and Sarkozy is best placed to deliver it.

  • Ginfizz

    BTW, I believe we need to steer a broadly centrist foreign policy, somewhere between the USA and the European Union – Blair’s devotion to the Washington line is his own failing – one that I do not think will be repeated either by Brown or Cameron.

  • Garibaldy

    Ginfizz,

    Don’t really see how you think Cameron especially will be more independent from the US than Blair. Inconceivable I’d say. Tory yapping about Blair’s foreign policy is pure opportunism.

    As for Britain’s economic position, I guess it depends how you measure these things. The reality is that the French have a better quality of life, a public transport system that actually works, better employment rights etc. There are indeed serious problems in France, but Sarko and his racism are a long way from being the solution.

    I suspect the possibility of disturbances comes not from the unions and students, but from the ethnic minorities disenfranchised by the failure of the political class to properly implement the policies and ideology of the Republic.

  • DK

    France certainly needs something done: The present policies have led to a situation where the young are leaving the country in droves as they simply cannot get a job. The extent of this is such that by number of French inhabitants, London would be France’s 7th largest city! The workers are voting with their feet – France needs Sazkozy – under Royal London might end up number 1.

  • Garibaldy

    DK,

    I think it’s more that the French are better equipped in terms of language skills and experience to move around for jobs than in the past, a process facilitated by the EU. London is filled with people from all over the world – many of them coming only for a relatively short time. This will only be of significance if large numbers of them don’t go back. Certainly most French people I know who’ve gone abroad do so intending to go back.

  • Ginfizz

    Garibaldy

    Sarko and his “racism” – cut the leftist verbiage s’il vous plait! Referring to riotous mobs as a rabble does not make the man a racist! Given that he’s also by birth of Hungarian Jewish ancestry, I doubt that racism frames any part of his political philosophy.

    As to his attitude towards ethnic minorities, I think the fact that he called for state-funding to be made available for Mosques, in order to provide these disenfranchised communities with some sort of a focal point/community hub, demonstrates that he takes their disenfranchisment seriously enough.

    The French may have a “better quality of life” – but it is produced by the lowest weekly work-rate of most of the European countries and is going to burden future generations with enormous tax bills to pay for the generous welfare state which exists at present, as the population starts to get older.

    Royal offers no solutions to these problems.

  • Ginfizz

    In relation to foreign policy, every PM can learn from the mistakes of his predeccesor in the field. I think that Brown and Cameron will have learnt from Blair not to engage in any future solo runs, without significant international support.

  • European Bob

    eh, Mickhall and lib2016, could you kindly explain how royal could deliver her socialist utopia when the french don’t have a pot to piss in.

    The French may not like Sarkozy but they are slowly waking up to the fact that they cant have their cake and eat it. You need a strong economy to be able to deliver on social welfare. Without you are in lalaland. Which is where france is right now. something has to give.

    If they man the barricades they will be cutting of their noses to spite their faces. The French youth may have been out in force protesting at changes to the labour laws (which would have seen them losing the protectionist laws their parents benefited from, which coincidentally are the reaosn their economy is fcuked) but it is that protectionism that prevents them from getting a job, as who would employ someone you cant sack? so you can whinge about not having a protected job but you have to realise that this may have something to do with you not having a job full stop.

    University degree, voluntarty internship until the age of 35-40, no thanks. 35 hour working week and a shafted economy no thanks. Sarkozy will win the election because he will win the arguement. To paraphrase the defining political strategy of the past decade and a half “It’s the economy stupid!”

  • Ginfizz

    EB

    Hear, hear!

  • European Bob

    Garibaldy, there is an inherent contradiction in your post. If France has such a high quality of living, how come this is patently not true of the ethnic minorities or the young, do they not count? There is a big gap in your logic.

    The only people who have a high quality of living are the middle aged, the rest of the country is shafted.

    Why would the young want to leave this utopia of high standard of living? cause it does not apply to them, they cannot get jobs and hence they are all leaving (as facilitated by the EU) or rioting. And France has no answer to this at present.

    By better employment rights? what is good about not being able to sack incompetent people? I work for a Company in Paris who has gone bankrupt twice and still have the same staff whose incompetence made it bankrupt, lalaland.

  • his protectionism and his support for the CAP – are simply ignored
    saddens me, as its been proven Europe’s inability to reform the CAP means African farmers can’t get started; hence a win for Sarcozy condemns the third world to even more hideous levels of poverty.
    Who gives a toss about them though eh ?

  • Ginfizz

    Parcifal

    Has Royal said she supports reform of the CAP? It would be electoral suicide if she did. Surely a free-marketeer like Sarko is more likely to facilitate such?

  • European Bob

    Parcifal, and Royal would scrap the CAP? dont make me laugh. Sarko is the best of a bad bunch. The CAP is a french socialists wet dream. Strange how socialist can never really see beyond their own domain.

    I agree the CAP is a monstrousity but I dont think people outside of France realise why the French love it so much, for them it was the raison de etre for the EU, it protects their lazy way of life. Without the CAP there is no point of the EU for the French.

    The chance of any frenchman/woman giving up the CPA is small to nil. and that is what will prevent any further movement on european integration.

  • What a silly statement to claim that France is an economic basket case, it has the 4th largest economy in the world. The same nonsense was put about Germany by the UK/Irish media prior to Angela Merkel coming to office, yet she has basically carried out the same program as Shroder and the German economy is picking up without having to use the nastiness of Reganomics.

    All economies fluctuate, it is part of the Capitalist system. Yes at times they need a nip and tuck by central government, but that does not necessitate bringing in measure that make exploitation the norm so that a minority of people can enrich themselves whilst a third of society lives below the EU poverty line. An unequal society is out of necessity either an oppressive or volatile society, surly not something to be welcomed.

    The reason there are a fair number of young French people in London is that young people if the can love to travel, what ever their nationality. Whether many French families are moving to the UK is altogether a different matter, as British families moving to France far out number their French counterparts moving to the UK.

    In any case these French youngsters in the UK are not picking strawberries in east Anglia, and I might add on this if anyone is proud that we allow such exploitation of seasonal agricultural workers to take place, than shame on them. What short memories they must have to forget Morcombe Bay.

  • Mr Wilson

    Prodi openly backed Royal.

    Getting the backing of a crook not good.

  • Garibaldy

    Ginfizz,

    I fail to see how Sarko’s ancestry alleivates him from the charge of racism. I know plenty of racist people whose ancestors suffered racism. Scum was the word used rather than rabble if I recall correctly, a word not applied to the white farmers who rioted by burning British sheep.

    EB,

    In terms of standard of living, I was of course generalising. In the same way that to talk about Britain as an economic powerhouse generalises and ignores the massive poverty, inequality, rubbish transport system, failing healthcare provision, prohibitive price of property (there was even an article on the Daily Telegraph website lamenting how professionals were being impoverished by that never mind ordinary workers).

    I suspect that a lot of the people leaving do so for the new cultural experience of living elsewhere, especially now that young French people are better equipped to do so than previous generations.

    Incompetent people should be sacked. Equally a worker’s right to be in a trade union and to protect his/her interests should be recognised. The pro-CPE argument reminds me of Thatcher’s argument against sanctions on South Africa on the grounds black people would suffer – such is the philantrophic concern for the weak that I almost missed the advantages it accrues for the strong.

  • good points GinFizz and Eurobob
    “them belly-full but we hungry” Bob Marley
    Pluc Ca Change, Plus C’est La Meme Chose

  • DK

    “The reason there are a fair number of young French people in London is that young people if the can love to travel, what ever their nationality. Whether many French families are moving to the UK is altogether a different matter, as British families moving to France far out number their French counterparts moving to the UK.”

    What self-deluding nonsense. There is a national debate in France about the depopulation of the young – it’s not just gap-year frolics. They move to London because they can get work there and can’t in France. You do not get the reverse.

    And the families are moving to France to retire because it is so cheap. This is not equitable. And France is not 4th – it is 6th, below Britain and China. And the gap is widening.

  • European Bob

    Garibaldy, if a young white univeristy educated people in france cant get a paid job until they are 35 what chance anyone? that is why they are moving to London and elsewhere.

    I say white because if even the those most employable cannot find a job what chance does an ethnic school leaver have? That is the reason for the riots, nothing to do with politics, it’s economics. How would Royal sort out the problem, no end of nice words will change the fact there will be even less jobs under Royal.

    The emphasis on race being that France is a racist (and sexist) society. In the papers the other week one of the residents of aulany sous bois was lamenting that if he could move to London he could get a good job in the bank, on a visit he was amazed to see Asians working as cashiers in a bank, something you rarely see in France.

    You cant deliver social welfare if you dont have the economy, whether you then choose to deliver the social welfare once you have the economy is an entirely different arguement.

  • Garibaldy

    EB,

    As I say I’m well aware France is far from perfect, although I know plenty of people under 35 there with good jobs. The point for me is that there is a good deal of talk of crisis etc, we need to be more like Britain – anyone I know in London hates their job, their working hours, the rubbish nature of the tube etc.

    I wouldn’t make the distinction you do between politics and economics. I’d say they’re much more closely related. The main political point in terms of the banlieu and the minorities is not that the integration model – that everyone is a French citizen with equal rights – is inherently flawed, but rather that the political class has dailed to apply it properly, for a mixture of class, religious and racist reasons. Someone mentioned Sarko supporting state funding for Mosques. How anyone connected to NI can think the violation of French secularism might be a good thing is beyond me.

    Or to put that another way, Marat didn’t die in his bath for the pale imitation that passes for the Republic in too many areas of French life.

  • Ginfizz

    Garibaldy

    I specifically mentioned Sarkozy’s floating of the idea of state funding for Mosques because in so doing he believed it would provide disaffected Muslim communities with a focal point and a community space, almost akin to a community centre. If those are the actions of a racist, you must have a differing definition of the term from me.

  • It amazes me that people still take neo-conservatives seriously after Iraq. I just wish people who go on about the welfare state being unaffordable etc etc would get into their heads it is no longer 1913. The days when a modern western State could claim the loyalty of its people and in return simply s h i t all over them have gone.

    Just as the war criminals Bush and Blair were mistaken when they thought they could own Iraq and its people would allow it to occur, so to are those who believe that a welfare State is not an integral part of a modern 21st century democracy.

    If the State does not provide by legislation decent working conditions, health care free at the point of need, education and infrastructure such as affordable railways etc. Then why should the majority of the people who live within that state give it their loyalty.

    Those with great wealth will to a degree, although for many of them this does not stretch these day’s to paying the same percentage of tax as the middle or working classes, some within the latter classes will give their loyalty for fear of losing their homes, but why would the one third of the population who have no property.

    The answer is there will come a time when they will not, of course the advocates of Neo-liberal economics will be long gone by then, but the majority of us will not, as there will not be enough passports to go around, and we will end up living in a nation of walled and gated communities, frightened to go out for fear of being robbed or attacked.

    Think Green Zone in Baghdad, if you wish to live in similar circumstances carry on supporting neo-liberal charlatans, but if not perhaps we should start to show our fellow women/man some respect and stop believing we are cleverer than them simply because the bank owns our home etc. In other words put away the childish conservatism of the Regan/Thatcher years.

    Social Democracy and its more conservative mirror image Christian Democracy, despite all its faults, has provided the people of Western Europe with 57 years of peace and ever growing prosperity. The welfare State and the safety net it has provided has made violent revolution and warfare between Western European states unthinkable, we turn our backs on this at our peril and to do so for a system of Neo-liberal economics that can not even provide free health care at the point of need in the most wealthy nation on earth would be crass stupidity.

  • Ginfizz

    Mick

    At what point have either I or EB advocated the abolition of the welfare state? Catch yourself on.

  • European Bob

    Mick Hall, strawmen a plenty there. What has econmic policy got to do with foreign policy? The french (the topic at hand) couldn’t give a monkeys about forgien policy.

    The french welfare state is unaffordable hence why the young are leaving it in droves, who picks up the bill? At the moment France is going one way only.

    Americas failure to provide free health care is not relevent.

    Britain’s failure to have a working mass transit system, see above.

    What has made violent revolution and warfare between Western European states unthinkable is the fact everyone been too busy working and doing something productive rather than standing around looking for someone else to blame for their problems.

    It is this that enabled european nations ot provide their social welfare program. the problem now is that the continuation of the social welfare programs in their current state is no longer feasible due ot the fact their economic dominance is no longer guaranteed.

    do you really think the NHS is the best health service in europe? I’ll give you a hint no one apart form Labour in europe does. 9Billion and rising on an IT system that isnt required and wont work.

    Neo liberal economics or whatever you want to call it is the only show in town, the question is how a government makes it work for the benefit of everyone.

  • Ginfizz

    EB

    Another good response. France needs a Thatcher-style revolution – note, I said Thatcher-style, not Thatcherite! There is clearly a need for economic re-structuring. FFS, the new accession states are prepared to undergo major economic reforms as part of the conditions of EU membership! Why not France, one of the founder states?

    Sorry Mick, but the reality is that France is in roughly the same position that Britain was circa 1979, and things need to change if economic collapse and brain drain are to be stopped.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mickhall: “It amazes me that people still take neo-conservatives seriously after Iraq.”

    By that logic, liberalism should have been thrown out with Vietnam.

    Mickhall: “I just wish people who go on about the welfare state being unaffordable etc etc would get into their heads it is no longer 1913.”

    Actually, given the aging population, it is less affordable now. Also, as the population diversifies, the underlying societal beliefs that support the welfare state will begin to rot.

    Mickhall: “If the State does not provide by legislation decent working conditions, health care free at the point of need, education and infrastructure such as affordable railways etc. Then why should the majority of the people who live within that state give it their loyalty. ”

    So many errors in such a small space…

    Firstly, none of these things are “free.” They have to be paid for… the money has to come from somewhere. It may be printed, leading to inflation or it may come from taxes, which have their own economic reverberations. Too much tax and those with the money and skills will leave.

    To ask the obvious companion to your question, if the socialists in charge of your country look at you as a convenient scape-goat and coin-purse for which you receive little or no “public good,” why should you remain loyal? The sort of socialist utopian thinking will inevitably lead to a draining of capital, both in the form of “brain drain” and real wealth. How will you keep them on the government plantation, mickhall?

    Just because the coin in which an individual pays for public goods is not specie does not mean that they don’t come at a price. What American’s pay for in specie, British pay for with time. A nation whose patients see a better chance of getting a necessary surgery by flying to the United States or India than to wait for the NHS to get around to providing said surgery, speaks volumes.

    mickhall: “The welfare State and the safety net it has provided has made violent revolution and warfare between Western European states unthinkable, we turn our backs on this at our peril and to do so for a system of Neo-liberal economics that can not even provide free health care at the point of need in the most wealthy nation on earth would be crass stupidity.”

    What supports the welfare state is the “fabric” of society. As the population diversifies, this fabric will be strained — the “common good” will seem less common. When the empathy of the payor for the payee begins to crumble — when the recipient no longer seems to the payor to a similar person in an asimilar situation, the welfare state will crumble.

  • “the problem now is that the continuation of the social welfare programs in their current state is no longer feasible due to the fact their economic dominance is no longer guaranteed.”

    EB

    What you write is simply untrue, provide me with evidence, if anything Western European countries are more wealthy today than at any time in their history and thus are perfectly able to afford a welfare state. What your saying is we must dump the welfare state, as some time in the future we may not be a member of the G8 Nations.

    I presume we the ordinary people will make this sacrifice so that the rich and multi national companies become wealthy beyond all reason and we will do so without raising our voices let alone flexing our muscles. In your dreams mate.

    To suggest that France is in the same position as the UK circa 1979 is plain daft and you know, look at the facts.

    People like you judge the wealth of a nation by the rich list, whereas I judge the failure of the nation by the number of Children who live in poverty, the waste governments spend on foreign wars, dreadful infrastructure, ignorant teenagers leaving school, more people in Jail than any other EU country.

    At the end of WW2, the UK was bankrupt, even more so West Germany, yet both States managed to build a Social Democratic society to be proud of and you wish us to give up all the sacrifices that generation made so that BP bottom line increases. [Please don’t quote the Marshall Plan unless you are on solid ground as I will go for you]

    You criticize the NHS and yes there are grounds for improvement, but why you mention the EU is a mystery as almost all EU states bar the newer members operate a system of health care based on need at point of use.

    So I say again, provide us with evidence that at this time the UK, France, RoI etc is unable to provide a welfare state for its citizens for economic reasons alone.

    I have just realized what makes me so angry about your posts on this subject and it is this, for even if there was an ounce of truth in what you write, [and there is not] to accept such a thing in the defeatist manner that you are, is cowardice of the first order for you are well aware if what you say is true, it will be confining millions of people to poverty, ignorance and a dreadful existence.

    Thankfully human kind has always found a way to do what people said was impossible. Straw man seems appropriate in your case.

    I say again, instead of aping Bush, Sarkosy and the rest of the 40 thief’s give the fact as to why we cannot have a welfare State, facts, not opinion.

    I notice none of the advocates of hatred and despair have answered my question as to why the people at the bottom of the heap and some in the middle would continue to support the State if it cannot offer them sod all in return.

    Nor have they explained why the richest country in the world and the number one advocate of neo-liberal economics is unable to provide a free health care system at point of need.

    Let me enlighten you, blind avarice and political cowardice along with an inability amongst the US middle classes to take on powerful vested interests who work against their best interests..

    PS, By the way old son, economic dominance, or any thing else in life come to that has never ever been guaranteed.

  • dread

    So we are all individuals now with nothing in common but despair, I feel dreadfully sorry for you. True some EU countries have an aging population, instead of driving millions into poverty the sensible thing would be to increase the tax base, there is plenty of living space in the UK and Ireland. Indeed this is exactly what sensible governments are doing although sadly in an underhanded way.

    By the way, the ideas I am advocating here are far from utopian or radical socialist, but social democratic and christian democratic, that you chose to ignore this and attempted a 1980s type smear speaks volumes.

    I offer you an example that by and large that has worked for 57 years without a break, and you prattle on about my utopian ideas, your not worthy of debate.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    mickhall: “At the end of WW2, the UK was bankrupt, even more so West Germany, yet both States managed to build a Social Democratic society to be proud of and you wish us to give up all the sacrifices that generation made so that BP bottom line increases.”

    Given the Marshall plan — an economic “jump-start,” followed by the creation of NATO, which was, in essence, an on-going American subsidy in the form of a security guarantee. NATO allowed Western Europe to re-task monies that would have otherwise gone for military spending to social spending, allowing Europe its fifty year flirtation with soft socialism. Additionally, the forgiveness of the net “Lend-Lease” debt, some $30,000,000,000 in mid twentieth century dollars — $1,674,917,077,543 in 2005 dollars, using the relative share of GDP to calculate, made for a pretty good nest-egg upon which to build.

    If you honestly want to see sacrifices, lets pull the plug on NATO as see if Europe can support a credible military and its soft socialism.

    mickhall: “I notice none of the advocates of hatred and despair have answered my question as to why the people at the bottom of the heap and some in the middle would continue to support the State if it cannot offer them sod all in return. ”

    Where the society is uniform, there is the notion — its a liberal notion, but it has some small merit, that the difference between the middle class and the poor is chance and bad breaks. Thus, as they perceive that there but for the grace of God, they are willing to pay to support those unfortunates, lest, someday, they are the unfortunate. Put it somewhere between charity and insurance, although, it has been noted, citizens in social democracies are less charitable, in the usual sense of the term, precisely because their government social orientation.

    mickhall: “Nor have they explained why the richest country in the world and the number one advocate of neo-liberal economics is unable to provide a free health care system at point of need. ”

    Couple of reasons — firstly, its not necessary, as any facility which accepts any US government monies cannot fail to provide medical service. This is defacto free medical care — just review the hospital write-offs for bad debts. Second is a matter of culture — American are less collectivistic and more individualistic. Medical insurance as a perk didn’t come into effect in the US until wage freezes of the war era, iirc.

    Sadly, I would point out that the rise of health insurance has been part and parcel with the rise of medical costs.

  • lib2016

    On a point of order, if anyone thinks that Thatcher was savaged in the House of Commons by her own Foreign Minister because of the poll tax is simply unaware of the facts. Go and look it up for heaven’s sake.

    As for the other arguments in favour of destroying social capital it would seem that some people will never learn. Good luck, Mickhall. I salute your courage but I’m trying to get a life and haven’t time to join you on the barricades.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    mickhall: “So we are all individuals now with nothing in common but despair, I feel dreadfully sorry for you. True some EU countries have an aging population, instead of driving millions into poverty the sensible thing would be to increase the tax base, there is plenty of living space in the UK and Ireland.”

    And how, pray tell, does one do this in a high tax, neo-socialist environment? the Republic has been told they should raise taxes, something that will slow / damage the economic engine that supports their state. Likewise, given the half-assed building regulations in the UK and ROI, where would you house the necessary population to support such a policy? This does not even address the other potential fallout, such as cultural norms — I seem to recall the Dutch Justice minister saying something about the Netherlands becoming a “sharia” state, once the population shifts enough for a constitutional change to that effect.

    mickhall: ” Indeed this is exactly what sensible governments are doing although sadly in an underhanded way.”

    And not without fallout and other ancilliary troubles.

    mickhall: “I offer you an example that by and large that has worked for 57 years without a break, and you prattle on about my utopian ideas, your not worthy of debate. ”

    They have only worked because the United States was there to pick up the tab for defense, creating a de facto subsidy to each state. Without that on-going wealth transfer, Western Europe never could have supported such a regieme — your unwillingness to respond speaks volumes.

  • European Bob

    Mick, whoa slow down there, I’m having trouble keeping up with all the words your putting into my mouth, must have missed it with all my hatred and despair, didn’t realise you were a drama queen.

    i’ve never made any statement on USA or GB economy or social welfare system, I was trying to keep the thread on point, France.

    the point you miss Mick is that european countries are also faced with unprecedented competition from Korea, Japan, India, China, Malayasia, Middle East to name but 3. And an unprecendeted aging population therefore the tax burden has never been greater and the taxable (is that the word?) have never been fewer. So it’s not a like for like comparison with 1979, 1949 or any time in the past.

    I did not say dump the welfare state, I said Sarkozy needs to get in cause only he has the balls to reform frances essentially lazy labour laws. for the record, off the top of my head, things that cant continue if France is to prosper;
    1) the fact you cant sack French workers for incompetence
    2) the unemployment benefit of 75% for the first 2 years of unemployment (I mean do 0% of the work get 75% of the pay, it makes no sense to work)
    3) the enforced 35 hour working week.
    These 3 thing have led to, IMO, the ingrained inefficeny and uncompetitevness of the french economy that does not benefit anybody. The french culture is why work? when you can get a job then do nothing, as they have realised the welfare state will look after them. surely even you can relaise no one benefits from this mentality. this is a direct consequence of the french welfare state.

    The proof, unemployment at 8%, youth unemployment at 20-30%. French national debt at 1.2 trillion (66% GDP) euro the fast rising of any EU country (the UKs is at 579 billion by omcparison) , which even the socialist admit is unsustainable. By 2010 they will have more pensions to pay than workers to fund them apparently.

    Don’t listen to me a report last year by Michel Péribeau, chairman of BNP Paribas, caused a sensation by stating that on current trends, France’s accumulated public debt would reach 100 per cent of GDP in the next seven years.

    The figures dont add up, and with no young new workers paying tax it will only get worse but the young people cant get jobs so they are all leaving. it’s a vicious circle. Dont blame me these fact is they cant afford their social welfare program that has completely fecked there economy.

    you may have overlooked the point I made re the game is how can a government make the neo liberal economy work for the people. Of course a social welfare program has to be provided but you have to make the books balance and deliver in the most efficent manner possible without the economy you have no social welfare, that is my key point and the one france is missing, unless they vote Zarkosy, it’s not despair and cowaridce it’s economics.

    ps neo liberlal economics, stupid wars, trident et al, aren’t a patch on the 9Billion wasted on NHS IT, the 12Billion and rising for the Olympics (think of a number any number it will be too small) or however many Billion Labour party donors have walked ou the country without paying tax on. Nothing to do with economic policy, all to do with good governance.

    Phil green should try walking out of Norway with 525million and see how far he gets.

    “Is that the queen, does she want some of her money back, oh no, a knighthood you say, thanks Tony, best million I’ve ever spent. But dont call on my mobile again when Im at work”

  • kensei

    “They have only worked because the United States was there to pick up the tab for defense, creating a de facto subsidy to each state. Without that on-going wealth transfer, Western Europe never could have supported such a regieme—your unwillingness to respond speaks volumes.”

    Myth. Could equally argue that if the US hadn’t picked up the defense tab, then Europe would have a rather large arms industry generating wealth. Europe probably would have spent enough on standing armies and nukes to prevent the USSR form rolling over the continent, but I doubt they would have spent anywhere near as much as the US which was involved in an ideological battle with communism that went over the entire world. European social democracy was less ideologically head on.

    Equally, the welfare state may have been a bit less generous,but the fundamentals would probably still be there. There is nothing inevitable about the ABM, and Europeans are different, you know?

  • 1) the fact you cant sack French workers for incompetence.

    Where do you get all this from, if a France worker is incompetence at the job he does, do you not think the employer has some responsibility, either for not training him/her to carry out the task probably, or for employing someone who was incompetent in the first place.

    If the worker is deliberately being incompetence of course they can be dismissed. As they can if the steal or continuously with no good reason have time off of work.

    You should remember I was a Trade Union official throughout much of thatchers period in office and all these old wives tales were told back then. Not least to justify the destruction of the UK mining industry and privatizing the railways. They were crap back then as they are today in France.

    As to your argument against the 35 hr week all I can say is get a life, if you wish human beings to be cart horse fine be one, but do not expect the rest of us to be willing put in harness.

    The big stick is the most foolish way to run an economy or business, just look at the US and UK economies to day, millions of people have to hold down two jobs to pay the bills and industrial relations are at rock bottom.

    Similar wretched arguments were used in the UK when the minimum wage was introduced, companies would be unproductive, etc it proved to have been lies. If a company cannot pay they’re employees a decent wage for a 35/40 hr week they should not be trading.

    Although I, like most trade unionists and workers are in favor of disciplined industrial relations, no worker wishes to strike as we go to work to earn money, not stand on a picket line. But we will fight to defend our families standing of living. Multi nationals make enormous profits these days, it is time more of it came back to working people via a social wage, which basically is what a welfare state is.

    Finally one of my heros is the German conservative politician and former chancellor Konrad Adenauer. He understood the need for harmonious relationships between employers and workers and indeed put it into practice twice, once at the end of WW1 as Mayor of Koln and after WW2 as Chancellor of WG. Todays conservatives could learn a great deal from studying his life rather than looking at the self interested, semi criminal nincompoops who inhabit the neo-con world.

    Finally back to Sarkozy, you write as if he is a new broom who will bring something fresh to the Élysée Palace, when in reality he has been part of the right wing establishment that has held the French presidency for two decades and more. He is tainted goods.

    All the best.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Kensei: “Could equally argue that if the US hadn’t picked up the defense tab, then Europe would have a rather large arms industry generating wealth.”

    Too bad size of arms industry is not the same as amount of defense spending. Do try to keep up.

    Kensei: “Europe probably would have spent enough on standing armies and nukes to prevent the USSR form rolling over the continent.”

    So far you’re writing a fascinating alternate history… a pity you’re not entitled to your own facts. Your statment ingnore the war-weariness of the Western Europe, the lack of industry still standing and the sheer damage to infrastructure. Your assumption that, had the American skipped off back to the US for a little more isolationist slumber, that Stalin would have given the time for more than a nascent Western Europe to form — even with the American’s there, he was willing to cause trouble as early as 1947.

    Kensei: “European social democracy was less ideologically head on. ”

    Kensei, Western Europe couldn’t handle *Serbia* diplomatically or militarily, without the United States to hold its hand, and you want me to believe they could have held off Stalin, or even Kruschev?

  • DK

    I think we are seeing the far-left falling into the trap described in the Euston Manifesto of opposing anything that has the hand of Amerika upon it. Therefore, Britain supports America in Iraq, France doesn’t. So therefore the French social system must be superior to the British. In some ways it is. But in others, and employment is a case in point, it is not. Thus, working conditions in France are good, but if you can’t get a job it doesn’t matter if they are a paradise. So the drain of workers to London from Paris continues….

  • European Bob

    Mick, That’s the point in France they cant be. I work in Pairs, I’ve seen it at first hand, there is a multitude of guys in the office who are incompetent but cant be sacked.

    Come off it, you cant expect a company to know from an interview how ever appointment will turn out.

    One examaple, there is a British guy who the French company were going to sack, he said I’ll see you in court, turns out as he (recently) married to a French woman he in now in the system, so untouchable. So he spends his day out to lunch, maybe pops in for a couple of hours.

    Or how about Corinne Maier’s book Bonjour Paresse, or Hello Laziness, and what happened to her, nada.

    It’s mindblowing.

    The 35 hour week is costing the French 20 Billion a year, 100 Billion in 5 years, how do you pay for it.

    The point ism in France, their simply isn’t enough jobs, why would you locate your business in France? How can you have an ideal(for want of a better word) job when you dont have a job? The only way to provide that is to ensure, due to a buoyant economy, there are plenty of job to go round. And then you can provide you social welfare system of choice.

    No one in French politics is a new broom, the all went to the same school. But he’s the best of a bad lot

  • Ginfizz

    Further to that point of order Lib, Geoffrey Howe’s resignation certainly set the ball rolling, but her unpopularity in the country over the poll tax made a load of nervous MP’s sitting in marginals plunge the knife in. I suggest you read Alan Clarke’s diaries.

  • kensei

    “Too bad size of arms industry is not the same as amount of defense spending. Do try to keep up.”

    Really? Did I claim anywhere that it was?

    “So far you’re writing a fascinating alternate history… a pity you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

    This is all entirely hypothetical, so I can present whatever facts I like to support my argument.

    “Your statment ingnore the war-weariness of the Western Europe, the lack of industry still standing and the sheer damage to infrastructure.
    Your assumption that, had the American skipped off back to the US for a little more isolationist slumber, that Stalin would have given the time for more than a nascent Western Europe to form—even with the American’s there, he was willing to cause trouble as early as 1947.”

    You’re right. I am assuming the Americans stayed about for a bit to allow some time for a stable Europe to develop, (not entirely unreasonable seeing as you’ve just fought a war over it) then fucked off home and decided that it’s our responsibility.

    “Kensei, Western Europe couldn’t handle *Serbia* diplomatically or militarily, without the United States to hold its hand, and you want me to believe they could have held off Stalin, or even Kruschev?”

    You are comparing apples with oranges. Serbia was a regional ethnic conflict, after many decades of the UN Charter which said you shouldn’t interfere in the affairs of another Nation state. Stalin was a direct threat, and please remember even France has produced Napoleon. Them car bombs and roadside traps in Iraq? Yeah, that’s probably our fault too.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you to a point. Europe complains when the US doesn’t act and when it does. I think the EU should pull it’s NATO weight more and develop modest capability to deal with the peace keeping missions it cares about. Oddly, your government opposes the creation of a European army. Why would that be?

  • Bob,

    I have no reason to doubt you about the lad in your office, although if he is as bad as you say, a capable management would keep a careful record of his insolent behavior and then the next time he says “see you in court”. They should reply fine, and if the tribunals are as biased as you claim, use that as a platform to expose them. Although my experience of industrial tribunals, even within Blairs Britain, is that they are more often than not scrupulously correct..[I have no experience of French tribunals etc]

    Funny enough this story allows me to tell you how long ago when workers and management had harmonious relationships we used to deal with this type of free loader. Before I worked for a trade union, amongst other jobs I was a TU convener in the construction industry on a large petrochemical contract.

    There were thousands of workers on the site, so it was inevitable that there were a few lazy so and sos or lads who could not cope with the working environment. We agreed with management to take equal responsibility for disciplining /changing the behavior of such people. We made it clear to such individuals that their fellow workers were no longer prepared to carry their weight. If they had problems getting to work we worked with them to find a way around it, the same with other social problems. By and large this worked, but if it did not we found a way, jointly with management to move them out of the door in a non confrontational way. We often found they were simply in the wrong type of work so we helped them find something more suitable if we could via the TU network. In other words there is more than one way to skin a cat.

    Of course today if you had a management which put the bottom line before all else and opposes TUs at every step, such relationships are impossible, although they still go on in some EU counties and as you mentioned the 35 hr week, here is the rub, productivity is higher in those countries than within the UK.

    I am not an expert on France but I believe it is true also there.

    Regards

  • Ginfizz

    “Oddly, your government opposes the creation of a European army. Why would that be?”

    Hmm. Could it be because the creation of such would be the first step in the creation of a common EU foreign policy?

    I think it was Lord Palmerston who put it thus: “we have no perpetual allies and no enternal enemies, merely interests” – so it should remain

  • TAFKABO

    I’m living and working in France at the moment. As far as this thread goes, I think Mickhall has the best take on the situation. yes, everybody here in France realises that there needs to be change, but I just don’t see what Sarkozy is offering the people in return for taking away their hard fought benefits. The guy is clearly racist, and those people celebrating the fact that le Pen’s vote went down in these elections need to realise that they went down because a lot of his support shifted to Sarkozy.
    His support of the Mosques is but a reflection of his own fundamentalist religious viewpoint, he wants more role for the church in the state, and this goes against the very idea of what it is to be French.
    As for not being able to get the sack, that works both ways. In my work a colleague found a better job and handed in her notice, which the manager duly refused to accept. She had to to turn down the better job, because the law protects the manager as much as it protects the worker.

    Anyway, the upshot is that we have two bad choices in both Royal and Sarkozy, if I had the vote it would have been for Bayrou, as it is, I think Sarkozy will win it, and in my suburb we already have the equivalent of the SPG police, trailing around in vans and taunting the young that when Sarkozy wins they are going to get their heads kicked in by the police, and all with the backing of the state.

  • European Bob

    TAFKABO, you admit that people in France recognise that change is required, see Sunday’s Telegraph’s business comment for a more adept summary of their current woes than I can provide.

    The sack thing may work both ways but it benefits neither employ or employer and is the main reason for the current malaise in the labour market and exodus from it by those who can.

    One thing is for sure is it will be intersting as Sarkozy will gett it tight from all angles so he will have to choose his battles carefully, be it on economic or social policy.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Kensei: “For what it’s worth, I agree with you to a point. Europe complains when the US doesn’t act and when it does. I think the EU should pull it’s NATO weight more and develop modest capability to deal with the peace keeping missions it cares about. Oddly, your government opposes the creation of a European army. Why would that be? ”

    The problem is that it is not a single problem — one, there is the sheer joy of remembering what happened the last couple times that Europeans formed armies. Second, there is the duplication and bureaucracy of parallel chains of command — do the orders flow this way or that way? Third is the possibility of someone, say, the French, using problem two to create all sorts of deliberate bureaucratic mischief — and believe me, the smallest things (like, oh, .07 mm) can create a world of hate and discontent.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Kensei: “You are comparing apples with oranges. Serbia was a regional ethnic conflict, after many decades of the UN Charter which said you shouldn’t interfere in the affairs of another Nation state. Stalin was a direct threat, and please remember even France has produced Napoleon.”

    No, I’m not. I am looking at the willingness to exert political will in the form of force. Given an ideal scenario — a technologically limited opponent who was generally politically isolated, the *BEST* the EU could handle was to declare this was an EU problem, not a NATO problem. Having taken responsibility for it, they stood back and dithered for YEARS, then whinged to the US that why wasn’t NATO stepping up.

    This is with a theoretically united, if not consolidated, Europe.

    Now, you want to sell the notion that a war weary Europe, one with nascent industrial bases, small militaries and internal problems with their native communists in some cases, were going to stand up to the Russians under Stalin?

    As for Napolean, first, he was Corsican — calling a Corsican “French” is a wee bit like asking a Scotsman about his skirt… Second, you had to wander back to the 19th century to find an outstanding French general… Lastly, do you really want all the other baggage that comes with Napolean — Imperial France, etc.?

  • kensei

    “The problem is that it is not a single problem—one, there is the sheer joy of remembering what happened the last couple times that Europeans formed armies. Second, there is the duplication and bureaucracy of parallel chains of command—do the orders flow this way or that way? Third is the possibility of someone, say, the French, using problem two to create all sorts of deliberate bureaucratic mischief—and believe me, the smallest things (like, oh, .07 mm) can create a world of hate and discontent.”

    Which is a problem for Europeans to work out, not Americans. The US is seemingly opposed to an EU Army in principle.

    “No, I’m not. I am looking at the willingness to exert political will in the form of force. Given an ideal scenario—a technologically limited opponent who was generally politically isolated, the *BEST* the EU could handle was to declare this was an EU problem, not a NATO problem. Having taken responsibility for it, they stood back and dithered for YEARS, then whinged to the US that why wasn’t NATO stepping up.

    This is with a theoretically united, if not consolidated, Europe. ”

    Context matters, and the context was different as I pointed out. You are also making light of a very grave situation in the former Yugoslavia. the problem wasn’t whining, the problem was paralysis in the face of genocide and brutal civil war. Something that was repeated by everyone, in Rwanda, and we are in danger of doing the same again in Sudan.

    “Now, you want to sell the notion that a war weary Europe, one with nascent industrial bases, small militaries and internal problems with their native communists in some cases, were going to stand up to the Russians under Stalin?”

    I think that people would have fought, again, for their freedom if they had to. I think it is a great motivator. I think people in Eastern Europe would have fought too, if the West had have backed them. If the US had have stayed long enough, then the Europe would have had sufficient time to recover to mount some kind of resistance. MAD also still applies, and Britain would have had nukes, France would have had nukes and West Germany would almost certainly have had nukes. Also defense spending required for Europe < Total US Cold War Defense spending. I also think the guerilla warfare genie would have been out of the box sooner or later too. And geez, we are grateful and all for the help, you know, but as for the patronising bullshit - Europe has demonstrated a talent for barbarism, war and genocide that the US can only dream about no matter how hard it's trying to catch up at the moment. In a hypothetical world where Europe was militarised and competing militarily with the US, it would be a serious threat to it. We just have found the shine has come off the whole military thing, having seen the consequences, real close and at home. And heck, we can get you to pay for it and get some decent healthcare (and we’re the idiots?)

    How’s Iraq working out?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Kensei: “I think that people would have fought, again, for their freedom if they had to. I think it is a great motivator. I think people in Eastern Europe would have fought too, if the West had have backed them. If the US had have stayed long enough, then the Europe would have had sufficient time to recover to mount some kind of resistance. MAD also still applies, and Britain would have had nukes, France would have had nukes and West Germany would almost certainly have had nukes.”

    West German would not have had nukes. Without US intervention, Germany was slated to become a backward agrarian state by the other European allies — ironic, in the sense that that was something that Himnmler envisioned as the ideal state for the Aryan race. They would not be permitted to have “the bomb.” England joined the nuclear club in 1952, France in 1960, the former as a result of US collaberation during the Manhatten project, the latter on their own. The French bomb would not have been developed in time to be a deterrant, perhaps not even the British one.

    Kensei: ” In a hypothetical world where Europe was militarised and competing militarily with the US, it would be a serious threat to it. We just have found the shine has come off the whole military thing, having seen the consequences, real close and at home. And heck, we can get you to pay for it and get some decent healthcare (and we’re the idiots?) ”

    First of all, it would not, in all liklihood, be a “Europe” competing with the United States, merely an expanded collection of S.S.R.’s and we recall how well that experiment worked, neh?

    Secondly, given that you have taken the benefit of a defacto economic subsidy and spent in on an unsustainable series of soft-socialist experiments, then mayhap you are idiots… which doesn’t mean U.S. isn’t idiots, just that a different hand-cart was picked for the trip to Hell.

    As for Iraq, militarily it was brilliant — a pity no one had bothered to update COIN plans since the Regean era. Throw in Clinton’s decommissioning of two divisions (and related supporting personnel) and the current president’s unwillingness to bloody the Iraqi army too badly in the war phase, this sort of unpleasentness was inevitable. Then again, I would point out that, as a whole, it is far superior to the liberal Waterloo of Vietnam. Yes, it is messier than France’s twice or thrice a decade expeditions into Africa, but the stakes are a little higher than raising the self-esteem of the average Frenchman.

    War has become something of a videogame to the western world — we suppose it should be quick, bloodless and allow the players to be home in time for dinner.

  • JG

    The UK joines the nuclear club in 1952.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Election update — Sarkozy has firm lead over Royal, with a steady 7 point advantage in Friday polls. Taking a riff from the OJ defense team, Royal has suggested France could slide into violence if she is not elected.