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Support 100 years of independent journalism.

24 April 2007

Who will pull through?

Bill Brown thinks Sarkozy will come out ahead in round two of the French elections

By Bill Brown

Eighty-four percent turnout tells us that the French actually care about this election. They have been led to believe, and they probably do, that for once there are real and important choices to be made. In theory, yes. In practice, the questions centre on whether either of the 2nd round candidates have the clout and wherewithal to push an agenda for change, or whether they’d get bogged down in the usual squabbles over the meaning of Life the Universe and Everything that bedevil French politics. Forty-two is not the answer, and more of the state strait-jacket and big government which is the favoured Royal option isn’t either. 30 years of steady relative decline ought to be the proof of that. The problem with ‘relative’ is it’s only evident to those who have been elsewhere and seen how things can be done. Most people charged with deciding France’s immediate political future haven’t had that benefit, through no fault of their own. This matters, but there’s owt to be done about it in the immediate term.

Local pespectives are really very local. My cleaning lady wants Sego – natch, as a member of the virtually dispossessed and prospectless poor, so would I. My friends favour Sarkozy, except for the few who thought the middle way might come to something. How sitting on the fence gives one piles. I’m for Sarko. Our particular ‘Community of Communes’ here in Normandy favoured Bove – it’s all farming hereabouts – but, as most of the dignitaries’ children want jobs other than in agriculture, which becomes harder and harder for fewer and fewer returns despite or because of the CAP , that may have been a revisionist take on things.

In the second round, my take is that Sarkozy will win as he’ll probably pick up the better part of the Bayrou vote, and, if Le Pen’s supporters bother to turn out, theirs as well. I’d guess 55-45 on May 6th. Personally, as an ardent opponent of over-regulated labour, an opponent of any crass system that says heavy goods vehicles can’t ply their trade on a Sunday, an exponent of a smaller state not a larger ‘Royal’ one and a realist who does not believe that one relatively small country can provide an alternative route to prosperity while ignoring global trends (protectionism is Sarko’s weakness, too, let it not be forgotten, although it would be good if he would forget the idea himself), I very much hope that a) Sarkozy wins, b) he rapidly rids himself of tariff-driven delusions about protecting the unprotectable and c) he embarks with all due haste on a reform agenda without spending too much time listening to the ‘1000 reasons why not,’ which always accompany any initiative for change anywhere. The spirit of France is alive and kicking; its people enterprising and educated (to levels that would make many an Englishman blush). The problem is the old one of how to get to Dublin without having to start from here. Not sure whether it can be done the way the candidates spell it out, but Sarkozy’s route out of national inertia and uncompetitiveness is the more compelling and he deserves his chance.”

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