Yesterday France elected a new president, and his name is François Hollande. The socialist came in first with 28.6 percent of the vote, with Sarkozy trailing at 27.1 percent – the first time an incumbent lost the first round. Marine Le Pen’s party, the French answer to our own dear BNP, scored a worrying 18.1. Add to this those who voted for, not to cut too fine a point, the communist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the loony fringe polled about 30 percent.
Yes, I know this was only the first round, and Hollande’s bubbly must stay on ice until the run-off on 6 May. But for anyone who understands what’s what, the second round is a formality: François will walk it.
Sure enough, assorted commentators are suggesting that all Sarko has to do now is attract the rightwing vote. That suggestion is scuppered by a simple question: What rightwing vote?
The mistake people make is in describing Le Pen as a rightwing candidate. She’s nothing of the sort, and neither is our own dear BNP. She is, and I’m in the mood for calling a spade a spade, a national socialist, the yin to the yang of the international socialist Mélenchon. Their economic programmes are well-nigh identical: Mélenchon wants to nationalise everything de jure, and Le Pen merely de facto. They really differ on immigration only: Marine says there’s too much of it, and Jean-Luc says there isn’t enough. C’est tout.
As Hollande’s views on the economy, which is understandably the swing issue in the election, are similar to theirs, most of the hardcore leftwing and soi-disant rightwing vote will go his way. Why, even Chirac said he’d vote for him, which is like Lord Tebbitt publicly endorsing Ed Miliband. How can François lose?
Here I disagree with the great political thinker Joseph de Maistre who said that every nation gets the government it deserves. The French just about deserve Sarko, whom I’ve always regarded as an unfunny joke. But they don’t deserve the likes of Hollande – nobody does.
I’d like to draw your attention to a perverse palindrome. You know, a word or phrase that reads the same in either direction, like Madam, I’m Adam. The perverse one I’ve mentioned is FLN. Read it the other way, and you get NLF. This isn’t a proper palindrome, but then I did say it was perverse. For both acronyms mean National Liberation Front, except one set of initials comes from the French for it, and the other from the English. The former has to do with Algiers; the latter with Vietnam.
These initials have been shown to act like a magnet for those who are sometimes called courageous iconoclasts and whom I, given my mood today, would describe as subversive morons. These are the people who detest the cultural, political and social tradition of our civilisation in general and their country in particular. If pressed, they’ll say they love their country, but hate ‘the establishment’, ignoring the fact that they themselves have become the establishment. Iconoclasm lives long after the icons have been smashed.
They can drape that animus into all sorts of banners, and during the Vietnam war the American variety marched through the streets, chanting, ‘Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF are gonna win!’ Considering that Ho was one of the worst mass murderers in history, this might sound odd. But it isn’t: to paraphrase slightly, violence attracts, and absolute violence attracts absolutely.
But the Americans were beaten to the perverse palindrome by the French who had been voicing their support for the FLN, the terrorist Algerian organisation ostensibly committed to independence, but in fact, like all such groups, really attracted to mass murder: the true purpose of mass murder is to murder masses.
As France was withdrawing her troups, the FLN murdered, after stomach-churning tortures, tens of thousands of veterans whom their sage government had kindly left behind. On 7 October, 1961, jubilant ‘iconoclasts’, egged on by the FLN, marched through Paris cheering the murderers. The ‘manif’ escalated to violence, the police fired live rounds, and a few people got killed.
Now the Left have always wanted to turn this day into a bank holiday, but even the previous socialist president Mitterrand (1981-1995) thought this was a rotten idea. Not so the incoming one, François Hollande. One of his first acts as party leader was to take part in a ‘manif’ commemorating the event. I wouldn’t put it past him to turn it into a bank holiday, especially after a week ago he expressed his tear-choked condolences on the death of the FLN leader Ahmed Ben Bella, and I didn’t even know he was ill.
This tells me everything I need to know, but, since the campaign is all about economics, it’s worth saying a word or two about Hollande’s ideas, and one or two really is the number of words they merit.
He undertakes to balance France’s budget by 2017 – so far so good, as the man said, falling past the 20th-floor window. This aim is as noble as it is hard to achieve, considering that France’s debt-to-GDP ratio is close to 200 percent, when everything is taken into account. And why is France’s debt so high that just servicing it would make it almost impossible to balance the budget? You don’t have to be an economist to know the answer: the French government spends more than it takes in.
And François’s remedy? Why, to spend even more of course. Specifically, he wants to hire 60,000 more teachers and dieu only knows how many more public-sector workers. And if this logical step doesn’t get him to a balanced budget, he also wants to lower the retirement age for many employees from 62 to 60.
Now even a socialist must realise that such steps have a low budget-balancing potential. Where’s the money going to come from, Mr Hollande? Why, from the rich of course. Squeeze them until they squeak and cough up their ill-gotten gains – you know, the gains they ill-got while creating jobs for millions of tax-paying Frenchmen (not too many millions, it has to be said, for only about 40 percent of them pay any income tax at all).
It’s tempting to say that this is simply illiterate: increasing tax rates is known to reduce tax revenues, as happened with our own 50 percent rate, which Vince says has ‘symbolic value’. It had better have symbolic value, for it certainly has no other.
Many of our commentators don’t think the French election matters much to us, but I beg to differ. Britain has nothing to gain from the collapse of Europe’s economic and social order – and much to lose. And it’s hard not to notice that the ‘iconoclasts’ are on the march. Merkel is wobbly in Germany, the Dutch ruling coalition has collapsed, with the party that until a couple of decades ago had been financed by the Soviets likely to form the next one – and now France voting for a man exuding from every pore hatred for Western tradition and disdain for common sense. (And let’s not forget our own awful coalition, pouring socialist petrol into the economic fire.) All this under the aegis of the EU, which is essentially the Third Reich minus the violence (yet).
Action produces reaction, and the relative success of the French extremists shows where the reaction is likely to come from. Mainstream parties no longer represent the mainstream – so where is the disfranchised majority going to go? A little push, like the most probable collapse of the euro, and there well may be blood in the streets. I for one would hate to see that happen.