Since the marriage between Angela and Nicolas was annulled for non-consummation, France has been getting ideas beyond her station.
Angie, crestfallen after the break-up, has tried to sweet-talk François into having the same passionate relationship she had with Nicolas, but the fickle Gaul doesn’t want to know. Unlike Nicolas, he’s a man’s man, he claims. He won’t let Angie crush that part of his anatomy, the sole part one has to say, that defines his masculinity.
François wants to make his own decisions, right or wrong, and no butch frau spilling out of a tight jacket will tell him what to do. This just goes to show he doesn’t get the point. Or rather six points, to be exact.
Point 1: To bolster her own fragile self-image, badly bruised over the last century, Germany has a deep inner need to rule Europe.
Point 2: Rather than committing to lifelong shrink fees, she’s prepared to pay any price, within reason, to achieve that goal.
Point 3: ‘Within reason’ are the operative words. Bailing out all those Greeces and Irelands, perhaps even Spains, is a smidgen inside this range. To do the same for France would be so far outside it that even Angie would balk at the price tag.
Point 4: France therefore must tart up her economy enough to look sexy to Angela.
Point 5: France is manifestly incapable of doing so on her own, certainly not under François’s tutelage.
Point 6: The only way for Germany to achieve her mission in life (see Point 1) is to take over the French economy and whip it into shape.
Angela is perfectly willing to get that old PVC costume off the mothballs and start cracking the whip. But she has to think of her public image, badly hurt as it has been by all those Greeks bearing Nazi uniforms. So the whip must be wielded by someone else, a dog of war to let slip.
Mercifully, Angela didn’t have to look far. Her finance minister Wolfgang Schaüble, ‘Wolfie’ as she affectionately calls him every time he fetches her slippers in his mouth, filled the bill perfectly.
It was a wise choice. ‘Wolfie’ bared his fangs and told his panel of economic advisors to devise a series of measures that would bring France back into the fold.
They are facing a tall task. Lars Feld, an economist who sits on the panel, put it tactfully: ‘Concerns are growing given the lack of action of the French government in labour market reforms.’
If only this were the only concern. Yes, not to cut too fine a point, François, just like our own Milibandits, is in bed with the unions. That’s why France’s labour costs are among the world’s highest (at least 10 percent higher than in Germany), her retirement age among the world’s earliest (only 40 percent of those over 55 are still at work, compared with 57.7 percent in Germany) and her work week among the world’s shortest.
But that by itself doesn’t explain the country’s plight, though people my age remember the havoc wreaked by the unions in Britain back in the pre-Thatcher seventies. And ‘plight’ is the right word to describe the state of the French economy.
It’s set to slip into recession and fall far short of European deficit-reduction targets. France’s industrial output has fallen to our own risible level of 12 percent of GDP, many of her factories are shutting down, and most of her products can’t compete with Germany’s. And her share of world exports has fallen below that of Spain and Belgium, those famous muscle-bound powerhouses.
Meanwhile, France’s quango-driven public sector has grown to a staggering 56 percent of the economy (even higher than ours), the kind of millstone that can drag even a healthier economy to the bottom. Suffocated by taxes old and new, France’s wealth producers are fleeing in droves, many to our shores. It takes some impressive footwork for the British economy to look like El Dorado to the French, but to François’s credit he managed to do it in no time.
Solutions? According to Deputy Jacques Myard, ‘Only a devaluation of 30 percent against Germany can restore the competitiveness of French firms…We have to leave [the EU].’ Truer words have never been spoken. But these aren’t the words Angie wants to hear (see Point 1 above). Her index fingers are firmly lodged in her ears.
So rumours are making the rounds that she’ll go further than merely asking ‘Wolfie’ to come up with a list of recommendations. She is planning to insist that Germany be given a decisive vote on how much and on what France spends, and how much and whom she taxes. Put differently, give or take a few minor details, she wants to put Schaüble in charge of the French economy. That’ll show that fickle François who’s boss.
No doubt it will. Moreover, I’ve seen little resistance to this prospect among the French Gaullist intelligentsia. Now François is a different animal altogether. For amazingly it’s mostly the French internationalist Left that offers any resistance, however feeble, to the shocking loss of France’s sovereignty. So François isn’t going to drop his trousers and take his punishment like a man.
I don’t know how this conundrum will be resolved, only that there is indeed a conundrum. Effectively Angie wants to have more control over France than that other famous Chancellor of Germany had over Vichy – this without the benefit of military victory. For François to accept that sort of thing is tantamount to self-emasculation, and he’s as long on pride as he’s short on intellect.
Things are going to get interesting before long. Staying outside will give us the best vantage point to follow the action as it unfolds. Should you wish to take a little flutter, my money would be on Angie, she of the PVC and whip fame.