It’s no wonder the Blairites love Macron:

President Emmanuel Macron’s government wants to end a 14-month ‘state of emergency’ in France, but at the same time integrate several of its exceptional anti-terrorism powers into common law, alarming judges and civil liberty groups.

Warrant-less property searches and house arrests, two controversial measures currently used by French security officials under special state of emergency powers, could become ordinary policing practices under a new bill being sponsored by the country’s new government.

This is right out of Blair’s authoritarian, snooping, meddling handbook. If he starts going on about military action in Syria, look out.


A French Lesson

In the comments under this post, dearieme makes the following remark:

It’s not that The Young are radical, though they certainly are prone to hysteria (American influence?); they don’t want to pull the whole system down. They are conservative; they think that the present system is just hunky-dorey but they want to replace their parents as beneficiaries of it.

I fully agree with this, and was indeed the point I was trying to make. What is interesting is that there is a precedent for this, albeit we must cross to my side of the channel to see it.

Back in 2006, Dominique de Villepin, the French prime minister, attempted to relax the country’s notoriously inflexible labour laws in the following manner:

The law is intended to encourage the hiring of people under 26 by allowing employers to dismiss them without cause within two years.

Youth unemployment in France was, and still is, very high mainly because once a company hires somebody they are impossible to get rid of. Therefore the incentive to hire a youngster with no experience or track record is low, and companies prefer to hire a handful of graduates who studied sensible subjects in the top universities and forget about the rest. De Villepin was an experienced and well-regarded politician – no bumbling amateur he – and believed that by allowing companies to fire any youngster they took on who turned out to be useless they would hire more of them. In other words, this change in the law was ostensibly proposed in order to benefit students.

So what happened? This:

A 36-hour strike, which began Monday night, set the stage for demonstrations in more than 250 towns and cities across the country that brought more than a million people into the streets, according to the police. Some of the labor unions put the figure much higher — at close to three million.

The worst violence occurred in the heart of Paris, as the demonstrations were winding down and groups of youths confronted the riot police. One police officer was reported seriously injured when a large firecracker thrown by protesters exploded in his face. The police eventually turned to tear gas and water cannons to clear the protesters away.

The turnout was the largest since protests against the new law began last month, gradually backing Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin into a corner. France’s students and unions are demanding that he rescind the law, which he pushed through Parliament without consulting the public.

The main opposition to de Villepin’s law aimed at helping students find jobs came from students themselves. The message was clear: France’s unemployed youth don’t just want jobs, they want jobs with exactly the same terms and conditions their parents enjoyed. If they can’t have this, they prefer to be unemployed. The proposed law was scrapped and little has been done to address the problem. A graph of France’s youth unemployment in the years since looks like this:Perhaps Macron can succeed where de Villepin failed? Time will tell.

At the time I though the French students were utterly deluded, but an illuminating post written by the now-silent Oilfield Expat made is worth considering:

In effect, France’s major corporations often seem more like an employment vehicle for the graduates of their grandes écoles than commercial enterprises.  And as with the government and the electorate, stuffing the upper echelons full of well-connected elites results in a huge disconnect between the management and the workers.  For it is largely true that, no matter how hard one works and how brilliant one is, you will never surpass the chosen few from the grandes écoles in terms of promotion and prestige.  For sure, many try, and considerable efforts are made by the company management to convince the ordinary folk that if they show sufficient compliance, obedience, and work themselves to death they will be admitted to the hallowed ranks of the chosen few.  But in reality, they are being sold an absolute lie.

What we are seeing in France is the result of workers having realised that they are being treated like second-class citizens in the workplace by a small bunch of privileged elites who have been parachuted into management positions for which they are wholly unsuitable, and have decided that they need to get aggressive if they are to have any share of the spoils.  No wonder France has militant Unions that demand ever-increasing benefits for their members when the ruling elites treat them with such contempt.  They’d be pretty foolish to rely on the good nature of this bunch to take care of them: they’d end up with nothing.

Perhaps the British youth feel the same way about their own ruling classes?


Macron, Putin, and the term “LGBT”

Lefties on social media were all wetting their knickers last night at the news that French president Emmanuel Macron “stood up” to Putin at their meeting in Versailles by labelling Russia Today and Sputnik of being “organs of influence and propaganda” against his campaign.

Judging by some of the comments, one would think Macron wrested back control of the Crimea rather than complained about media outlets. Others think this shows that Macron has far more backbone than Donald Trump who didn’t confront Putin over Russia’s meddling in the US election (possibly because he, like most of us, is still waiting for evidence that they did). It seems that in Macron the progressive media has found a new darling to replace Obama, and we can expect them to write endless puff-pieces every time he says something. Whether they’ll report honestly on what he actually does is another matter entirely.

But Macron’s criticism of RT and Sputnik isn’t what I want to talk about just yet. I am more interested in this part of his speech:

French president Emmanuel Macron says he has urged Vladimir Putin to ensure that the rights of LGBT people are protected following allegations of a crackdown on gay men in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

Macron added that President Putin told him he had started a number of initiatives with regard to the Chechen LGBT community. Previously, Putin said he would talk to the prosecutor general and interior minister regarding an investigation.

I have watched a video of the original speech and Macron uses the term LGBT, not gay men, which appears to be the norm among progressives these days.

One of the things I find quite strange is that gay men appear to be quite content to be described as LGBT, lumping them in with transsexuals. The reason I find it strange is because in doing so they will find it a lot harder to be accepted in places like Russia where they are having a tough time of it. I can understand it on one level: progressive gay men in the west who enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else want to show solidarity with another minority group who aren’t as well accepted. But throwing your lot in with a much smaller group that isn’t as well accepted might not be the smartest approach for gay men in the long term.

Despite the best efforts of progressives backed by an entire grievance industry, transsexuals are not anywhere near as accepted by the general population as gays, and this applies anywhere (even Thailand). Part of this is because of what the population is being asked to accept. With gay men, we are simply asked to accept that some men prefer other men to women and not to punish them for following through on those desires. In this modern age, most people can and do accept such a request. But with the transsexuals we are being asked – nay, told – to accept that a man can become a woman by changing their clothes, mutilating their genitals, or simply by deciding they are a woman. Even reasonable, open-minded people are struggling with this because it feels as though they are being forced to accept something ridiculous in the name of social justice. Furthermore, we are not being asked to merely accept that these people are different, we are being told to address them in the manner they demand and that they are entitled, among other things, to use whichever bathroom or changing rooms they please.

Even in enlightened places such as the USA and UK there is a considerable rift opening up between what the progressives are demanding and what the general population is happy with on the subject of transsexuals. Your average middle class dad doesn’t mind gays and probably wouldn’t have his life ruined if his son turned out to be gay. But he’s never going to be very happy with a 16 year old boy wandering around the changing rooms where his 14 year old daughter gets in and out of her swimming costume.

By throwing in their lot with the transsexuals, I think gay men have scored a massive own goal. Macron talked to Putin about the “LGBT community” in Chechnya. Let me put Le President straight on this point, if you excuse the pun: there is no LGBT community in Chechnya. There are gay men in Chechnya and they are being treated abominably, but there is no LGBT community in the way the term is understood on, say, an American university campus. If Macron (or anyone else) wants to help gay men in Chechnya they should refer to them as gay men, not wrap them up in terms of a community that simply doesn’t exist. He has now handed Putin a perfect excuse not to do anything about it: he can come back and simply say that he went to Chechnya and couldn’t find this LGBT community of which Macron spoke.

But that’s only half the issue. Unlike us in the west, the Russian government appears to have little interest in browbeating its population into accepting gays and trannies. Therefore the only way gays are going to see their position in Russia improve is if the general population learns to accept them, and by far the best way of doing that is to demonstrate that they aren’t much different from normal folk and it’s really nobody’s business what they get up to in private. I suspect a lot of Russians would be on board with that: despite the hostility towards gays in Russia, most middle class Russians aren’t about to go gay-bashing and I’m not even sure they approve of the skinheads doing it. From the ones I have canvassed in my social circles, it is more a question of them rolling their eyes and laughing a little rather than foaming-at-the-mouth hatred towards gays. I’d say Russians are somewhere around where the UK was in the 1960s, with the new generations becoming a lot more tolerant than the last.

But what Russians are a long, long way from accepting is the idiocy that is being rammed down the throat of westerners regarding transsexuals. Gay men they might accept, but men “choosing” to become women and demanding to use women’s toilets, no. One of the most effective arguments authoritarian government use to repress gays is one which suggests that turning a blind eye to gays results in a slippery slope of degeneracy which can lead to outcomes nobody wants or expected. Unfortunately, these arguments can be amply supported by pointing to intolerant, ridiculous cases in the west, such as the man who recently got arrested for heckling Caitlyn Jenner or the Christian bakers.

Macron’s use of the term LGBT may have won him praise in liberal circles in the west, but it will not have helped gay men in Chechnya (or anywhere else in Russia) one jot. When Putin returns home he doesn’t need to explain to the Russian people that Macron asked him to stop bashing gay men; he can instead say that Macron asked him to ensure the rights of transsexuals are upheld. Most Russians will have no idea what this even means, and those that do will be quite sure they don’t want that to happen. The end result is ordinary Russians will feel under no obligation to push their government to end the bashing of gay men, and some will even think it necessary.


French v British Car Parking

There’s a decent discussion going on over at Tim Worstall’s about the state of car parking in British towns and cities.

One of the things I have noticed over my years in France is the presence of large underground car parks in French towns and cities, even the very old ones with lots of heritage buildings. People complain about not being able to find a parking space in Paris because they are looking for the free ones at street level, not the ones in dedicated car parks. When I was in Bordeaux last weekend I came across the entrance to an underground car park in a small square surrounded by old buildings:

According to the website there are 196 places down there.

You almost never see these municipal underground car parks in British towns and cities. Instead, you get surface or hideous multi-storey car parks. The same is true for residential buildings. In France, most modern apartment blocks come with two or three layers of basement parking (plus an extremely useful set of storage rooms). When I’ve looked at these I imagine construction starts by digging a gigantic hole and pouring a lot of concrete to make the car parks, then putting the building on top. You rarely see this in the UK. Most apartment blocks there have a ridiculously undersized surface car park and residents who don’t have their own space are expected to park on the streets.

I have heard various excuses for this. Apparently parking cars at street level is safer, as criminals have to operate in full view of everyone. Which British criminals appear to do anyway, so this is a stupid idea. Other people mumble about the water table or proximity to a river. I don’t buy this, either. There is an underground car park in Annecy which spirals downwards into the ground for at least a hundred metres, possibly more. It is located right beside a canal that leads to the lake some 100m away. The car park in Bordeaux pictured above is about 200m from the river. Proximity to water and geology doesn’t seem to be much of an impediment to building underground car parks in France.

My guess is that underground car parks (both municipal and residential) require specific civil engineering skills that British construction firms lack, and they cost money. British councils and developers being what they are, they will use every excuse in the book to avoid spending money on a quality job. If there is a corner to be cut they will do so, the consequences down the track be damned. So a developer will seize on any reason not to build an underground car park if they can get away with a strip of tarmac instead. It’s not like they can’t flog the apartments for a king’s ransom anyway. Continue this for a while and soon you’ll not be able to find any contractors who have the skills and experience to do build them anyway. And here we are.

I’ll wrap this up by saying French civil engineering is extremely good, and I could cite many examples in support of this statement. I may return to this topic in future.


Why I’ll Never Vote in France

I’m going to expand on a reply I made to Watcher in the comments underneath this post.

As you all know I live in France. Whereas it was my work which initially brought me here, I have made the decision that France, provided I am able to stay, will be my country of residence for the foreseeable future. Nobody forced me to come here, and certainly nobody is forcing me to stay. I have chosen France because, on balance, I like it more than anywhere else. France has its problems but, as I am fond of saying, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. And France is easily good enough.

I don’t consider myself a guest in the country – I consider that term to be largely bollocks. However, I have chosen to live in a society of French people running things how they see fit. Whatever they have done thus far, it appears to suit me better than the society my own countrymen have constructed around themselves.

It would therefore be somewhat churlish of me to set about trying to change that society, wouldn’t it? Regardless of what I think of their politics and their choice of president, this is what the French have chosen for themselves. I consider myself free to stand on the sidelines and carp, but not to actually interfere in their choices. I came here of my own accord and am free to leave at any time, but this is home to the French.

Even if I became a French citizen I think I’d still not vote, for these reasons. When I look at what is being done in various Western countries, i.e. millions of immigrants invited in by the ruling classes who hope they will boost their chances in future elections regardless of the damage done to the host society, I think a policy of allowing only those citizens born in-country to vote may have some merit. Why should a newcomer be allowed a say in how society is run? If he or she has a particular vision of society they should enact it in the country of their birth, not impose it on others.

But as things stand, most people seem happy to allow foreigners to arrive in their country and within a few years set about changing things around. As with so many issues, I’m ploughing a lonely furrow here.


Magic Bullets

Years ago I was sat in a meeting at work explaining to my boss that a situation had gotten into a bit of a mess and would require quite some effort to put right. I wasn’t responsible for the situation but it fell to me to fix it, at least in part. I had no problem doing this, but if I was going to do it properly then it would mean the hierarchy confronting some unpalatable truths, making some tough decisions, and committing to expenditures they’d probably rather not have to. I explained to my boss what needed doing and why, and that I would happily take charge of the works from then on. My boss, alas, did not have any experience in this area of work whatsoever but was nevertheless drawing a salary and enjoying the authority that comes with the position and so found himself owning this particular mess. He was also, like all good corporate ladder-climbers, very aware of the consequences of having to pass on bad news to his own management.

Even though he didn’t much like the course of action I was offering, he wasn’t in any position to argue: the problem had landed on my desk and I was happy to solve it, albeit my way, and he lacked the knowledge and competence to challenge my methods. He was just on the verge of accepting my proposal when one of my colleagues from an altogether unrelated department piped up:

‘We can do it, no problem.’ All heads swung over to young George, who had spoken.

‘You can?’ said my boss hopefully.

‘You can?’ said I skeptically.

‘Yes, sure,’ said George. ‘We won’t need to do any of that stuff Tim is saying, I’ll get one of my guys to do it.’

My boss grabbed hold of this like a drowning man clinging onto an empty Fosters can in the hope it will support his weight and stop him being dragged ‘neath the waves.

‘Okay, good!’ he said. ‘Can I pass this over to you, then George?’

‘Yes, no problem!’ said George, bobbing his eagerly. He then looked at me slyly, knowing he’d made himself look smart and me stupid, and gotten his boss out of a hole. If I’d given two figs about my career in that place I may have said something, but instead I just grinned back and said ‘Good decision!’ and gave everyone a thumbs-up while sporting a shit-eating grin across my face.

Note that at no point did my boss ask George how he intends to do this work, let alone how he intends to do it easily and quickly when I’d been suggesting it would be neither. And nor did my boss seem to mind handing off work that my department was supposed to be doing to George, who worked in a quite different line of business. My boss heard what he wanted to hear and didn’t ask any questions: a magic bullet had presented itself to solve his problems, and he’d gladly accepted it.

Only of course George’s solution was no such thing: as soon as he tried to do the work he found he couldn’t and his department faffed around and obfuscated for months afterwards making one excuse after another, still assuring the boss he was on top of things, until eventually the work got wrapped up in a larger project and let he and my boss off the hook. Nevertheless, George was seen as being “helpful” whereas Tim was viewed as being “difficult”.

This situation is extremely common in large organisations: management is told what they want to hear by their subordinates, who get a reputation for being “helpful” and a “team player”. Ambitious people offer magic bullets in order to boost their careers and undermine possibly rivals, and managers accept them uncritically. Nobody wants to take the tough path when somebody has provided them with a magic bullet that allows them to avoid it.

I can’t help thinking a similar thing has happened with Emmanuel Macron being elected president of France. France has some serious problems which successive generations of politicians have failed to address. The EU also has serious structural problems which nobody has even tried to address because that would entail first admitting these problems exist. This latest election campaign started off with the incumbent Socialist party wiped out. the centre-right party’s François Fillon offering the same as Sarkozy did previously, and Marine Le Pen saying quite bluntly what she thought the problems were and how she intended to fix them. Fillon’s campaign was brought down by a scandal involving payments to his wife, which cleared the path for Emmanuel Macron to sweep in as the only “decent” or “moderate” candidate.

Aside from a few people who follow French politics closely, nobody has a clue who Macron is. Indeed, most of the media thinks this man who until very recently worked for a Socialist government is a centrist and an outsider. Insofar as his policies are concerned, he has basically done what George did in my meeting: he has wandered into the middle of the election and said:

‘No problem, just leave everything to me! I’ll solve X, Y, and Z without us having to make tough choices or suffer any pain, don’t listen to what that nasty Le Pen is saying! Vote for me and everything will be all right!’

And, like my boss, the French have seized on this reasonable-looking man as their magic bullet. I can understand why a lot of French didn’t vote for Le Pen – the name alone puts a lot of people off, as well as some of the more right-wing elements of her policies and followers. But she at least made it clear who she was, what she wanted, what she thought the problems were, and what she intended to do about them. You don’t have to agree with her views or proposed solutions to appreciate that she didn’t take the easy route of pretending things can and should continue as they are and the population need not suffer any sort of economic or social disruption going forward. But in telling the population what they don’t want to hear, even if they desperately need to hear it, she left the way open for Macron to come in and tell them what they wanted to hear.

I am not surprised that the media and various Establishment figures around Europe have accepted Macron uncritically, and not even bothered with a cursory attempt at due diligence as to who this person is. After all, he told them what they wanted to hear as well. Even if we ignore the supposed financial scandal that was leaked a day or two before the election, the media seems uninterested in doing anything other than praising him for saving France from the fascists and Europe from oblivion. How an election in which two thirds voted for an unknown youngster making vague promises to solve problems that have confounded three or four previous generations and a third voted for radically altering the country and its relationship with the EU is cause for celebration and relief I really don’t know. But I have a feeling both are going to be rather short-lived.

Macron was plucked from oblivion as a 15-year old by his now-wife, who is 25 years old than he is, and propelled upwards. In the 24 years since, he has lead the same charmed, privileged life – grand ecoles, cushy positions in industry (in his case finance), parachuted into the highest levels of politics – that all of the French elite enjoy. I doubt he has had to deal with a major problem in his entire life, yet here he is about to run a country facing serious difficulties. How much influence his wife had over his career thus far, and how much she will have over him as president, is something nobody knows because nobody bothered to ask, but the French are about to find out.

My guess is he will not know what’s hit him. He’s been propelled into power thanks to either good fortune or the deliberate sabotage of Fillon’s campaign and the fact that he’s the nice, reasonable young man who can’t possibly offend anybody and says all the right things: just like Tony Blair, David Cameron, Barack Obama, and Justin Trudeau. The first three of those left office having been massacred by the realities of politics, their “legacies” in tatters, and thought of fondly only by a handful of sycophants who occupy metropolitan bubbles that shield them from the vast majority of their fellow countrymen; and Trudeau is proving to the world why electing Prime Ministers on looks is a bad idea. Such “big tent” people are good at meddling, tinkering, nannying, and pandering to fashionable causes but utterly useless at dealing with serious issues such as immigration, unemployment, horrific public debt, terrorism, collapsing rural and industrial communities, an entrenched elite, an over-regulated economy, and unions that hold a gun to the heads of ordinary citizens. They are too preoccupied with being liked than doing anything that might make people dislike them, even if it is the right thing to do.

I suspect in a few months Macron will have his first real test in office and he will be found wanting. People will begin to wonder how this person was railroaded from nowhere to the French presidency in a matter of weeks without anyone bothering to find out who he is. By then it will be too late, of course.

Not that any of this is Macron’s fault: the French people for too long have been too ready to accept the magic bullet solution, and Macron simply told them what they wanted to hear. As I am fond of saying, people get the government they deserve and in Macron the French appear to have exactly what they want: somebody who promises them comfort but changes nothing. Good luck to them.


Francis Turner on Macron v Le Pen

This post by Francis Turner over at L’Ombre de l’Olivier is worth reading, and pretty accurately reflects my own views on the upcoming final round of the French presidential election:

The French presidential race has come down to a similar situation to the US one last year. There are two choices and both are looking pretty bad. So if you are a French voter how do you decide which one to not vote for?

Go and read it all!


On whose side are the British Police?

My walk to the office each morning takes me through a gigantic pedestrianised concourse with a police station located smack in the middle of it. This means that police cars often have to enter the concourse area and navigate their way through crowds of pedestrians.

This morning I saw a fully-marked police car (without its lights flashing) trying to enter the concourse and into a line of commuters. They weren’t having an easy time of it because nobody was really willing to move aside, and if they did it was a couple of feet at the most. The police car had to inch forward and wait every few metres for a pedestrian to walk past; nobody was particularly interested in cooperating to give the men in uniform an easier life. If one were to look at who had the power in that situation, the conclusion would be that it lay with the pedestrians. The ordinary people, in other words. I thought it interesting that the policemen didn’t resort to using their lights or sirens or even trying to push through aggressively. They looked a bit annoyed, but they didn’t make any moves to insist the pedestrians change their behaviour any more than necessary.

If the same scenario were to take place in the UK, the public would be a lot more helpful. They’d leap out of the way in their attempts to show the police they are cooperating, mainly out of pure public-spiritedness. I’ve written before about this difference:

Growing up in Britain you are sort of taught that policemen are nice people who are there to help. Terms like “citizens in uniform” and “friendly neighbourhood policeman” are bandied about, and this mindset appears in the British culture in shows like Dixon of Dock Green and the Noddy series of books where Noddy invites the policeman into his house for a cup of tea. As far as I can tell, British citizens still view the police as people to be trusted, approached for help, and to cooperate with at all times.

This contrasts sharply with places…such as France for example. Here people think the gendarmes and other police forces are there to catch criminals and keep the piece, but are to be avoided wherever possible. They are not your friend, you don’t ask them the time or for directions, and nor do you invite them into your home for a cup of tea. You hope to go through life with a minimum of contact with them, and any other uniformed authority.

But what’s more interesting is how the British police would have behaved had the citizens not cooperated by flinging themselves into bushes and ditches to get out of their way. They would almost certainly have used the sirens, causing people to jump out of their skin. They’d have turned the lights on implying there was an emergency when none existed. And they’d have wound down the windows and threatened people, and if one or two were not sufficiently cowed they’d have jumped out and quite possibly tasered and arrested him. As I discussed in my earlier post, the British police are quick to use intimidation and force against people who they are reasonably sure will not fight back, i.e. proper criminals.

Of course this is speculation, and maybe this wouldn’t happen at all. So let’s take an example of what the British police actually do. I sat down this morning expecting to use this example in which the police see motorists as a handy revenue stream, but opening Twitter I saw this:

(In case you can’t see the picture, a screen-grab is here.)

This comes from those who police a city where:

Daylight stabbings of schoolchildren have become “part of the workload” for London’s Air Ambulance medics, they revealed today.

The service is now treating almost as many shooting and stabbing victims as people seriously hurt in road crashes, with open-heart surgery on knife victims performed in the street on an almost weekly basis.

This morning I read this:

Detectives in Greenwich Borough are appealing for witnesses and information following a stabbing in Plumstead.

Officers and the London Ambulance Service attended and found an 18-year-old man suffering stab wounds. He was taken to a south London hospital his injuries are being treated as life threatening.

DC Andrew Payne, the officer in the case, said:

“This attack happened in broad daylight, in a busy street and I am appealing for anyone who saw anything, or who knows anything, about the attack to contact me.”

And this:

A man has been found stabbed to death on a bus in central London.

Police said the man, aged in his 40s, was found fatally wounded on the 189 bus in Gloucester Place, near Dorset Square, at about 00:10 BST.

And last week I saw this video of events which took place in Hackney:

As I said before:

If the police in Britain … want to remain relevant, they had better make up their minds whose side they are on and inform the law-abiding masses of their decision, preferably via demonstration rather than empty speeches.

At the rate they’re going, the British police are going to be awfully surprised when one day in the near future they are called upon to restore law and order find the population treating them very much as part of the problem.

The French police might not be liked and respected, but at least they are confident the people they serve know whose side they’re on.


More on Macron v Le Pen

There have been some rumblings on the Interwebs that perhaps Macron won’t be the shoo-in we all think he will.

One argument is that, if the likes of Merkel, Juncker, and all the others who think the EU rules über alles keep fellating him, the French are going to wonder in whose interests he will serve. Perhaps unlike other EU citizens, the French believe the EU is there to serve French interests, not the other way around. They don’t want an EU poodle any more than the Brits do, and Macron appearing in front of a giant EU flag on every occasion isn’t going to be helping him in this regard.

Another argument is that a lot of folk are behaving as if he’s won already. People are already talking about how the EU has been saved and how he will usher in a new era of economic prosperity for France. I can’t see this going down well among the French. They’re a prickly bunch and don’t like being taken for granted and have a wonderful habit of chucking a stick between the spokes of any process which they think is being done over their heads. A lot of French might not like Le Pen but they at least expect an election to take place to confirm this before the world starts planning Macron’s coronation.

There is also the issue of turnout. Fillon has come out and said he will support Macron, and everyone has assumed those who voted for Fillon will do as well. But that’s a big assumption: Fillon was much more of a genuine, centre-right candidate in the mold of Sarkozy than Macron, who is running on the platform of vague promises and nobody knowing quite who he is. Those who voted for Fillon will be well aware that Macron is not the outsider the media are portraying him to be and he’s as likely to be the next Hollande as the next Thatcher. This might not make them all turn out for Le Pen, but it might make them stay at home.

In the end the 2016 US presidential election came down to who could get the voters out. Throughout the campaign it was obvious that Trump had the more dedicated supporters, those who would turn out to vote for him come hell or high water. Hillary’s rallies were lukewarm, stage-managed affairs with very little passion and supported by people who only really knew that they didn’t want a Republican in the White House and especially not one named Donald Trump. If this has any bearing on what happens in France, it is Le Pen who has the fired-up support base who know exactly what they want and why they want their candidate to win, and Macron who is reading out boilerplate political guff and hoping his “decency” and assumed centrism is enough to get people to turn out for him on election day.

I still think it is likely Macron will win with a 70% share as all others unite behind him, but I could just as easily be completely wrong. If I am wrong, and Macron manages to lose, those things I mention above will be among the reasons why.


Macron v Le Pen

So, it’s Macron versus Le Pen, then. In the next two weeks Macron is going to find himself fellated by the European political Establishment and media to such a degree that Barack Obama will feel jealous. Indeed, so hyperbolic will be the accolades leading up to the election that people might be put off voting for him out of pure embarrassment. He is going to be held up as the single person preventing Nuremberg-style rallies being held at the Stade de France every weekend from July onwards, and the saviour of Europe. If the roles were reversed and it were Le Pen who they adored, she would grace front pages of newspapers decked out in white armour.

What’s interesting is foreign heads of state aren’t even pretending to be disinterested any more:

Many European leaders have been congratulating Mr Macron on the first round results – as they are keen to strengthen the union after Brexit.

Mr Macron addressed the nation in front of an EU flag as the results came in – something noticed by both pro and anti-EU politicians.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffan Seibert, tweeted: “It’s good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with his course for a strong EU and social market economy. All the best for the next two weeks.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also congratulated him, as did EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

“The result is the hope and future of our generation,” she tweeted.

Are these people interested in France or the EU?

What’s also interesting is the media still haven’t got their story straight on Macron yet. The original version of the BBC’s article that I linked to had him down as “an outsider”. They’ve since changed this to “newcomer”, presumably when people pointed out that he was about as much an outsider as Ryan Giggs was when he took over at Man Utd at the back-end of the 2013-14 season.

Mr Macron was current President Francois Hollande’s economy minister but quit to create his own party, En Marche, which pushes a liberal, pro-EU agenda.

Even “newcomer” is pushing it. The truth is, the entire France political Establishment in France is set up quite deliberately to exclude outsiders from rising within it, and the same is true for business, the civil service, and anything else deemed important. To progress within these organisations one must come from the grande écoles, and to get the highest positions one must have finished close to the top of the class. The scores somebody gets when at these institutions is something that gets looked and their entire career; I have seen a French company phone book from the mid nineties that had beneath the name of each person the school they went to and the score they got. The chances of an outsider getting to where Macron has found himself in France are precisely nil. Even Le Pen was born into a political household to a father who was known everywhere. She’s no outsider either.

As for his policies: a liberal, pro-EU agenda and promises of economic and social reforms is what damned near every French politician has run on since I can remember. The economic reforms fail at the first sign of protest from the unions, and the social reforms don’t address serious issues such as immigration, terrorism, and collapsing rural communities but stuff like this:

Ban on mobile phone use in schools for under-15s and a €500 culture pass for 18 year olds

France can’t stop people murdering gendarmes on the Champs-Élysées with AK-47s but they are going to police kids bringing phones into schools. Uh-huh.

Macron sounds like another Tony Blair, promising “big tent” centre-ground policies to appease everybody but the fringes thus ensuring his election but, lacking principles or conviction, not being able to deliver on anything. Blair promised “Education, Education, Education” and “tough on the causes of crime” and instead we got micromanagement, a massive increase in the public sector, petty meddling, authoritarianism, paternalism, and an erosion of civil liberties. And after ten years kids still couldn’t read or write and the jails were still full.

France needs this about as much as they need another German invasion. I am sure Macron will win thanks to people feeling they have little other choice; Le Pen represents change, has grasped the immigration nettle, and at least appears to like France more than the EU but her economic policy is no solution for anything. A Macron win will be seen by the European and French policial Establishments as a full endorsement of the status quo and Macron’s muddle-headed policies, and France will be subject to another four years of “more of the same”. Macron’s popularity will collapse and the usual plethora of corruption allegations will surface, and we’ll go through the whole pantomime again next time around.

Things don’t change easily in France.