Tuesday, 31 August 2010

La Rentrée

Throughout the summer politicians in France are on holiday. That has not stopped the government from expelling hundreds of Roumanian gypsies and deporting them back to Bucharest. In fact, to be more accurate, they are leaving “voluntarily” after having received 300 euros per head as a resettlement allowance.

The policy received more coverage after a speech by Sarkozy at Grenoble which emphasized “La Securité” and these two things were linked together by implication. His popularity rose in the opinion polls as a result.

The combination of picking on a minority group and linking it to stronger controls on immigration appeals to many voters in France, particularly those who vote for the Front National. Seeking to overtly appeal to an underlying current of racist opinion is a dangerous political card to play. It has already rebounded once on the UMP earlier in the year when Eric Besson, the Minister for Immigration and National Identity launched a national debate about what it is to be French, opening the door for the National Front to hijack it and gain substantially in the Regional Elections.

The reaction of the Socialists during the summer has been to deliberately say nothing very much because previously, when they reacted strongly, they found that it helped the UMP. Politicians are now back at work and this morning Segolene Royal, who really seems to be attempting a rapprochement with Martine Aubry, was on France Inter. She avoided fully answering a question which was posed about the deportations and security, and turned it into a question about how she would deal with the rising level of delinquency. Again playing on people’s fears and practising negative politics.
 I was disappointed because someone needs to say that blaming minorities for your problems is a slippery slope towards fascism. Stephane Guillon would have been quick to point this out in one of his bitter and often outrageous chroniques, but he was sacked by France Inter in June. http://johnpreedy.blogspot.com/2010/07/thousand-protesters-outside-france.html
In addition, whilst blaming minorities when you are in difficulty might gain you a short term political advantage, it does not face the real problems of the country. Of course what people perceive as the real problems and the reality are different things, and depend on your political complexion. The Socialists and the more extreme left are still fighting the battle against exploitation of the workers, and asking for even more social protection, whilst the Right have resorted to stigmatizing small minorities to distract attention from their lack of leadership concerning economic issues.
 Meanwhile Germany has just posted record growth figures for the last quarter.

Sarkozy had the opportunity to set France on a new path towards a more prosperous future. When he was elected I hoped that he would seek to change people’s attitudes concerning the relationship between the Individual and their expectations of the role of State, a sort of French Thatcherite revolution, but he has bottled it in favour of a fuzzy economic policy and a populist appeal to right wing voters. What a disappointment!


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