Features

François Hollande has found a shameful saviour

The French president is looking more hopeless than ever. But he has good reason to be plotting a run for re-election

28 May 2016

9:00 AM

28 May 2016

9:00 AM

 Paris

Sitting on a crowded café terrace in Rue Saint-Antoine on a sunny evening last week, there was no sense of national crisis. When a motor scooter backfired, no one jumped. The constant racket of police car sirens was ignored. The National Assembly had just voted for the third extension of a seven-month ‘national emergency’ following terrorist attacks that left 130 dead and 368 injured. But talk of violence in the streets generally referred to the police; have they been too rough with the student demonstrators who are conducting all-night sit-ins in the nearby Place de La République?

The student demonstrations have been provoked by the government’s new employment law, which is designed to reduce unemployment by making it less expensive for employers to take on new (and largely youthful) staff. Naturally the students are savagely opposed to this idea. Their movement is called ‘Nuit Debout’ (Up All Night) and has spread across France. Their opponents have rechristened it ‘Dormir Debout’ (Asleep on their Feet) but the students are supported by the powerful CGT union, which has done everything in its power to wreck a flagship reform for the Socialist administration that could deal a significant blow to what remains of France’s near-bankrupt ‘tax and spend’ economy. In the event — and in the face of fierce opposition from many of its own supporters — the government managed to force through an emasculated version of the law under Article 49.3 (that is, by decree), and just survived the ensuing no-confidence motion.

There is a year to go until the next presidential election and for many voters the delay is far too long. According to the head of the DGSI (French MI5), France is ‘Enemy No. 1’ for Islamic terrorism, a point underlined by the Paris-Cairo air crash. Yet in a recent opinion poll, 89 per cent agreed that the country is in urgent need of ‘un vrai chef’ (a real leader), and even among Socialist party supporters those in agreement numbered 77 per cent.


These, then, are difficult days for Captain Calamity, also known as François Hollande, the French president. A month ago his justice minister resigned over a proposed change in the constitution, which his government subequently failed to pass into law. Since then he has seen his popularity fall to 13 per cent, making him the least popular president in the history of the Fifth Republic. But it is typical of Captain Calamity’s tenacious desire for power, and some would say his capacity for self-delusion, that with disaster staring him in the face and supporters scrambling to abandon ship, he should choose this moment to give clear hints that he intends to stand for re-election in 12 months’ time. Groans of protest have risen from all sides, but he steams on, steady as she goes, towards the surf and the rocks ahead. Meanwhile, the party he leads is on the point of disintegration.

The French Socialist party has always been an alliance of warring factions. It was invented in 1971 by François Mitterrand, a political rascal and genius of the old school, and designed as a vehicle to ensure his own election as the first socialist president of the Fifth Republic. Since Mitterrand’s original political background was monarchist and Pétainist, this seemed a tall order. But a decade later there he was, strapped in to 14 years of power. Mitterrand remained the only socialist president of the Fifth Republic until Hollande narrowly defeated Nicholas Sarkozy four years ago.

Unfortunately for the Socialists, Hollande is no Mitterrand. His prime minister, Manuel Valls, instructed to lower unemployment, stimulate economic growth and reduce the deficit, is ritually insulted as ‘a traitor to the left’ by party members. The economics minister, Emmanuel Macron, formerly an investment banker with Rothschild’s, has launched his own political ‘movement’ and is describing himself as ‘a centrist, not a man of the left’. Within the Socialist party Hollande’s opponents include the former minister and embittered leadership contender Martine Aubry, mayor of Lille and inventor of the 35-hour week; she has announced that she is leading a break-away party within the party in order, as she puts it, ‘to reinvent the left’. Outside Socialist ranks Hollande is faced with another ex-minister, the charismatic anti-EU ultra-lefty Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who is is calling for ‘a citizens’ revolution’ and scoring higher than the president in popularity polls.

Meanwhile the country’s intellectuals, traditional reservoir of energy and inspiration for the left, are in equal disarray. Whereas the Labour party in Britain is racked by accusations of anti-Semitism, the socialist movement in France is in crisis on the question of ‘Islamophobia’. Is ‘Islamophobia’ the ‘anti-Semitism of the 21st century’? Or is it ‘a meaningless slogan designed to undermine the secular state’? Among the political philosophers the insults are flying thick and fast. ‘Islamo-gauchiste!’, ‘Obscurantiste!’, ‘Multi-culturaliste!’ Some favour ‘left-wing nationalism’ in defence of the secular, anti-clerical values of the republic; others preach an all-out attack on the free-market economy with a programme of renationalisation; still others want to abandon the ‘dinosaurs’ of the Socialist party and start from scratch.

In some cases, traditional supporters of the left are simply moving to the right. They include the so-called ‘homonationalists’ — gay voters who support the National Front. In last December’s regional elections, about a third of married gay couples voted for the party of Marine Le Pen. She appeals to them because as the most anti-Islamic political leader, she provides a rampart against a perceived threat to their lifestyle.

And that may provide a clue to François Hollande’s apparently deluded desire to run again. Against such a chaotic background, with the great timbers of France’s secular, progressive republicanism being washed away in the storms of globalisation and mass migration, Hollande claims to be the only person who can ‘reunite the left’.

In reality he calculates that in next year’s presidential election, the lucid body of French voters who want to seek prosperity by joining the global economy will once again be outnumbered by the anxious body of those who want to defend their existing rights to state support. The emasculated employment law will be Hollande’s last attempt to reform the French economy. He has already launched a pre-election programme of state handouts to farmers, civil servants and teachers. And Tuesday’s dawn tax raid by 100 inspectors on Google’s Paris HQ will also look good on his record. Captain Calamity may be a disastrous president, but he remains an effective tactician. And he calculates that he could indeed be re-elected, if he can just manage to reach next year’s second round — and find himself running against Marine Le Pen.

So that is the point which French socialism under President Hollande has reached: pinning its presidential hopes on a first-round victory by the leader of a party that it regards as xenophobic, racist and a threat to democracy.

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Show comments
  • uberwest

    To some people, associating with patriots is ‘shameful’, but associating with jihadists is acceptable? It’s absurd!

    • Atlas

      It’s leftism. Leftism is an inherently regressive ideology that purses the return of society to a simpler and more barbaric time, an analysis of every leftist regime to have ever existed reveals this to be the almost universal outcome, the Khmer Rouge being the most extreme example. It’s for that reason leftists embrace a the ideology of medieval war criminal and paedophile.

      • Roger Hudson

        Weren’t many of the KR leadership educated in France?

        • post_x_it

          As was Ho Chi Minh.

      • Hegelman

        The alternative being? I ask out of mere curiosity.

        I had some notion that the Left also contributed a great deal? That the Right was not free of problems either? One thinks of anti-Semtism and its consequences, for example.

        But tell me the alternative. It’s always nice to know these things.

      • Pip

        Yet the Mainstream Media is overflowing with leftists (progressives).

  • Lothlórien

    “So that is the point which French socialism under President Hollande has reached: pinning its presidential hopes on a first-round victory by the leader of a party that it regards as xenophobic, racist and a threat to democracy.”

    People are beginning to wake up to the destructive nature of the Left throughout Europe. Their undemocratic (see Greece), pro-EU, disdainful and sanctimonious politics are ripping Europe apart.

    Democracy and common sense must prevail – checks and balances – the Left must be humbled.

    • Sargon the bone crusher

      Equality is sold as being ‘democratic’. It is not. It requires autocracy to inflict it – as with Brown, Blair, Brezhnev, Stalin, etc etc etc.

    • Pip

      The classic tactic of the Left is the turn the truth on its head and then repeat the lies over and over again with the assistance of a corrupt and compliant media, all this is designed to confuse the minds and cloud the judgement of the naïve and ignorant, the DT and Speccy are guilty of this on a daily basis.

  • davidofkent

    Hollande is another snake oil salesman. He lied to get into power by saying that France did not need any austerity. Once in power, he changed his mind. The French are becoming an ungovernable race with ‘Strike First’ being the maxim. They work the fewest hours in Europe and still close up shop on Saturdays, Mondays and the whole of August. Utterly hopeless. Let’s leave the EU, please.

    • davidblameron

      LEAVE the EU, I echo your wise words

    • Sargon the bone crusher

      No no, they are just concerned about the future; as the British used to be, before they discovered that they are the Chosen People.

    • Tom M

      I agree with most of that. It’s not Mondays and Saturdays it’s Mondays or Saturdays. And yes they work shorter hours than in the UK have an hour or more for lunch but work till seven at night. Their labour laws would have Arthur Scargill orgasmic.
      But, and here’s where it doesn’t stack up, the productivity of France is better than the productivity in the UK.

      • Weaver

        Oh, that’s an easy one. Econ 101.

        Productivity is measured across workers in employment. France employs about the same number of high wage persons as the UK, but doesn’t employ as many low wage. That’s why youth and low-skill worker unemployment is so high in France. They don’t have the long tail of minimal wage jobs. The result? French average working wages, or productivity appears higher.

        It’s just a statistical artefact of how productivity is measured.

        There’s a few other simple reasons; Brits work longer hours, and each added hour is obviously a lower marginal rate, so productivity appears lower at the margin. Plus, given the restrictions on hours worked, the French do quite a bit of their work “off the books”, so it appears that they are absolute demons for their “official” hours…

        • Tom M

          Thanks for that. So it would seem then that a productivity index is no more than the average wage of employed people. I’m struggling to understand what that has to do with output. I would have thought that productivity is something like so many man hours per widget.

          • Weaver

            Productivity is wages divided by hours worked.

          • post_x_it

            The widget is the output!

    • Alex

      Hopeless? Sounds like they are ahead of us, living more enjoyable lives. Certainly ungovernable, but why should any of us care about that: we are not part of the governing class.

    • Daidragon

      Yet still are more productive than us ‘hard working’ Brits.

      • post_x_it

        Productivity is output per hours worked, and depends to a large extent on the input mix between capital and labour.
        In an economy that suffers from excessive costs and regulations affecting labour, producers invest more heavily in capital and favour capital-intensive industries over labour-intensive ones.
        As a result, you end up with nice productivity figures as the output per hour worked by a human looks good, but the flipside is sky-high unemployment.

    • Pip

      The French are more militant then the British but they are also more ignorant about Politics and the agenda of the traitorous French Political elite.

  • Norton Folgate

    Gosh! The French are getting a frightful kicking today: http://bit.ly/1TYfMEr Ouch! And another one: http://bit.ly/209DK43

    • Foxy Loxy

      They’re both excellent!

  • SeaNote

    DRAW Hollande Mounting Merkel.

    • Sargon the bone crusher

      Je monte Lagarde!

  • ThePrisoner1967

    Good article. Insightful. Thanks.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    For the French Left, the FN is “a party that it regards as xenophobic, racist and a threat to democracy”? People I know in France (including those who support FN) regard the Socialists as contemptuous of their own people, crazily wedded to demographic sabotage through the importation of Muslims, and economically calamitous.

    • davidblameron

      sounds quite polarized

    • Tom M

      Most of those I know are rampant Socialists and if they live in the country are most certainly Communists. I have found a few right wing business people but even then they could only be called centre right.

      • Malcolm Stevas

        Some good friends, retired business people, are very anti-Socialist, and one of my neighbours in the Midi loathes the Commune’s Mayor as a Communist…

  • Polly Radical

    The French are French; leave them to their sad little lives.

    • Ebst

      I would, but they’ve blocked the roads out with burning sheep and tyres.

      • Polly Radical

        That’s toasted sheep, monsieur.

  • davidblameron

    Awful things happening just across Le Chanel, be pleased one lives in a civilized country where the rule of law is supreme.

    • Sargon the bone crusher

      HA ha ha.

    • Tom M

      La Manche.

      • davidblameron

        vous et la pedantique

        • Roger Hudson

          Is that ‘the best bowls player’? sorry

          • polidorisghost

            Any more of your lip and I’ll set fire to your boules

        • Tom M

          On est pédant.

          • davidblameron

            merci

  • Sargon the bone crusher

    He will win, as She will lose.

  • Roger Hudson

    One crucial factor in the near future will be the football European cup, if Hollande loses control he could be tainted beyond even the saving power of the anti-NF gang.

  • smittychap

    Mme. Le Pen, with her charismatic niece, Marion Marechal Le Pen, campaigning bedside her, will retire the hapless Hollande by winning both the first and second rounds under the banner of the Front National and French nationalism. All the energy, rectitude, and patriotism is on their side. See http://splashingrocks.blogspot.com/2016/05/three-brave-ladies-at-europes-gates-le.html.

  • Hegelman

    I rather like France and certainly enjoy French literature very much. There is no more beautiful language and their food is delicious.

    What I am afraid of are all the Muslims in France who in a few generations will destroy its free way of life. That is a very serious problem indeed. No-one worth considering is facing up to it. The NF are gutter criminals.

    • WhitColb

      The language all sounds the same. Every other syllable is an “oo” or an “eh”. That’s why there’s no French Rock and Roll

      • Hegelman

        There are endless “eh” endings in French, true enough. It puts off the beginner. But when you get into this marvellous forest it only gets more and more beautiful and the rolling resounding “ou” sounds with the rich “r combinations more than make up for the excessive “ehs”.

        I love the high standard of language in French newspapers. They consciously try to write beautifully and often succeed.

        • WhitColb

          The rich “r”? The “resounding “ou”?

          Seriously? These sounds exist in many languages. It is no more or less beautiful in French. French is not any more of a pretty language than Romanian is, people just say that as a dated cliche.

          • Hegelman

            It is true that I don’t know Romanian and feel no eagerness to find out. I also think all languages are wonderful in one way or another. English is very poor at expressing feeling succinctly like certain South Indian languages, for instance. But French has an literariness and a tastiness that I find delicious. Italian can be as good but I know it less well. Spanish has a certain masculine resounding grandeur. Russian is meaty and smoky. German is solemn and thunderous. (The Communist Manifesto sounds splendid in German.) But of them all it is French that I enjoy the most. “Mon Cher Camus: Notre amitie n’etait pas facile, mais je la regrettrai…”

          • WhitColb

            That’s the gayest thing I’ve seen on the internet today

          • Hegelman

            “Gay” is an ambiguous term these days. If you meant it in the old sense, fine.

            Read the essays of Sartre. Liquid,humorous,ironic prose.

          • Can’t really take any of your pontificating seriously since you acknowledged the looming disaster of Islam yet reject the FN.

          • Michael David Davis

            You mean you didn’t find his comment all meaty and smoky??? The pretentiousness is vomitous.

          • jon03

            What’s wrong with Romanian? It’s just another Romance language, Latin based and imported by the Legions.

          • WhitColb

            Nothing

    • 22pp22

      It’s either the NF or Islam. Le Pen would make an excellent president and to call her a gutter criminal is a cowardly cop out.

  • Daidragon

    Vive le France. Where they fight the good fight against globalisation and the lowering of standards of living that we are seeing in the anglosphere. Even with all their strikes and militancy their economy is far more productive and solid than ours.

    • Pip

      Utter nonsense.

  • Callan

    Several years ago a Chinese colleague of mine returned from an assignment in Paris, his first visit. I asked him what had impressed him about the city. The Eiffel Tower? The Louvre? No his overriding impression was that every street was covered in dog sh..t.

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