Hollande wins

How centrist will the French Socialist candidate be?

The headline in this morning's Le Monde read: "Triomphe de la gauche réaliste" (Triumph of the realist left). That was how France's newspaper of record greeted François Hollande's victory over Martine Aubry in the second and decisive round of yesterday's socialist primary. Hollande won with nearly 57 per cent, on a turnout - remarkable for an election of this sort - of 2,860,000 (an increase of 8 per cent on the 2,661,231 who voted in the first round).

As for Hollande's "realism", it's certainly true that he tacked to the centre against Aubry and the left-wing Arnaud Montebourg in the campaign leading up to the first round of voting. And he belongs to a generation of Socialist politicians scarred by the electoral beating the Socialists took when François Mitterand's government turned to austerity early in 1983, abandoning the Keynesian economic activism of 110 Propositions pour la France, the programme on which Mitterand had run and won two years earlier.

Nevertheless, as I wrote last week, Hollande couldn't ignore the surge of enthusiasm for Montebourg, stoked by his fulminations against globalisation and his calls for much tighter state supervision of the banking sector. And indeed he didn't. Between the first and second rounds, Hollande made a number of public entreaties (especially on financial policy) to Montebourg and his supporters, most of whom would, it was assumed, vote for the more left-leaning Aubry second time around. It seems to have worked: last week, Montebourg endorsed Hollande as the candidate most able to build a winning coalition against Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election.

Hollande has said he won't throw himself into campaigning straight away. For one thing, the organisational apparatus of the PS, of which Aubry is first secretary, needs overhauling. Hollande's first act as presidential candidate is likely to be to attend today's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the police massacre of Algerians demonstrating in Paris.

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's speech on terrorism will do him more good than harm

The Labour leader's criticism of police cuts and western foreign policy will resonate with voters.

The election campaign, if there was any doubt, has resumed. In his speech responding to the Manchester attack, Jeremy Corbyn did not limit himself to expressions of sympathy and solidarity. He squarely targeted Theresa May on her home turf: policing and security.

The Conservatives' repeated warning is that Corbyn is a "threat" to his country. But the Labour leader countered that only he could keep it "safe". Austerity, he declared, "has to stop at the A&E ward and at the police station door. We cannot be protected and cared for on the cheap." May, having been warned by the Police Federation while home secretary of the danger of cuts, is undoubtedly vulnerable on this front. Under Labour, Corbyn vowed, "there will be more police on the streets" (despite Diane Abbott's erroneous arithmetic), while the security services would receive whatever resources they need.

Corbyn swiftly progressed to foreign policy, the great passion of his political life. Though it is facile to reduce terrorism to a "blowback" against western interventionism (as if jihadists were Pavlovian dogs, rather than moral agents), it is blinkered to dismiss any connection. As Corbyn noted: "Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home" (the Tory-led Foreign Affairs Select Committee is among those who agree).That the former Stop the War chair has long taken this view absolves him of the charge of crude political opportunism.

Corbyn was also more careful than his pre-briefed remarks suggested to caveat his criticisms. He emphasised: "Those causes certainly cannot be reduced to foreign policy decisions alone. Over the past fifteen years or so, a sub-culture of often suicidal violence has developed amongst a tiny minority of, mainly young, men, falsely drawing authority from Islamic beliefs and often nurtured in a prison system in urgent need of resources and reform.

"And no rationale based on the actions of any government can remotely excuse, or even adequately explain, outrages like this week’s massacre."

But he maintained his central charge: western intervention has made the world more dangerous, not less. "We must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working," he said. "We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism."

Though Corbyn's arguments have appalled Conservatives (and some in Labour), they are ones that will likely find favour among the public. Polls have consistently shown that most voters oppose western adventurism and believe it has endangered the UK. Corbyn's words will resonate among both the anti-interventionist left and the isolationist right (this is, after all, a country which has just voted to retreat from even its closest neighbours).

The speech, given at 1 Great George Street (in the room where Ed Miliband gave his resignation address), was marred by Corbyn's refusal to take questions. But it was unarguably well-delivered. "Let’s have our arguments without impugning anyone’s patriotism and without diluting the unity with which we stand against terror," he warned in a pre-emptive strike against the Conservatives.

Corbyn's decision to give an overtly political speech four days after the Manchester attack is being widely described as a "gamble" or even a profound error. But the election will now rightly focus more closely on the issue of security - nothing should be beyond democratic debate.

Many of Corbyn's life-long stances, such as unilateral disarmament, do not find favour with the electorate. But there was little in his speech today that the average voter would contest. The Conservatives will hope to turn the heightened security debate to their advantage, ruthlessly quoting Corbyn against himself. But on this front, as on others, the Labour leader is proving a tougher opponent than they anticipated.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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