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.

The French Election, First Round

It’s hard to say what’s going to happen in the French presidential elections, first round voting of which takes place today. The French are an unpredictable bunch at the best of times and they keep their political cards close to their chests: unlike in the UK, it is pretty hard to get an understanding of which way a French colleague intends to vote.

The other day The Economist ran a chart which smugly showed that Marine Le Pen stands 1% chance of winning the presidency, which they were forced to defend on Twitter. Whether the polling in this election will be as disastrous as it was in the US presidential elections and the Brexit referendum remains to be seen, but one thing is sure: The Economist’s chart reflects what they and other Establishment types dearly wish will happen, i.e. Macron sweeps in with around 70% of the vote.

In all honesty, I think this is the most likely outcome. Insofar as this can be predicted, I’ll plumb for a Macron v Le Pen run-off and every single trick in the book up to and including outright fraud will be pulled to ensure Macron wins. And when he does, with that 70% of the vote, EU leaders will pour forth their accolades of Macron and gratitude to the French people who they will claim have utterly rejected Le Pen’s policies and given their endorsement of more of the same with some additional EU political integration thrown in. The Establishment will learn nothing, they will ignore the issues Le Pen ran on and the 30% of those who voted for her, and the next time around they’ll be surprised to find an even more extreme candidate as the front-runner. M. Le Trumpe, perhaps?

If Macron does get in it’s hard to see what he’ll achieve. He’s put himself forward as a radical outsider when he’s a 39-year old career politician from the grande écoles – in his case the École nationale d’administration – from which France draws just about everybody above the level of middle manager. He also used to work for Hollande. Some outsider. I remember when Sarkozy was labelled the French Thatcher but couldn’t change a damned thing, and Hollande couldn’t either when he belatedly realised (in his late fifties) that socialism doesn’t work and tried to implement some reforms. Quite why the French believe that successive presidents with the exact same education and background (and often beliefs) will be the one to enact reform is anyone’s guess. Mine is that, despite what they say, the French have been collectively happy with how things are. I suspect this election will simply confirm that when the majority votes for Macron.

I don’t think Le Pen is a solution to anything (just the same as I don’t think Trump is), but voting for her would at least signal that France admits there are problems and they don’t simply want more of the same until their country is in ruins. Her election would also bring about major, much-needed reforms in the EU or maybe even its complete dissolution.

I guess we’ll soon find out what it is that the French really want.

Preaching Extremism with Impunity

Happenings in France:

A mosque in the eastern suburbs of Paris was ordered closed on Tuesday because authorities deemed it “a threat to security”.
The mosque, located in Torcy in the Seine-et-Marne department, was deemed by authorities to be “a threat to public order”.
Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said the mosque had “become a place where radical ideology was advocated”.
“Some of the preaching was openly hostile to France’s laws and was inciting hate to other religious communities, primarily Shia Muslims and Jews.”
He added that there was a risk of “a breeding ground that threatened security and public order” in France.
In the official police order for closure, Imams were said to have “legitimized armed jihad” over the past two years, “calling on members to pray for jihadists to destroy the enemies of Islam in France and around the world”.

I have a Muslim friend living in a European capital, and I occasionally meet him and speak about the issue of extremism being preached in mosques across Europe. He hails from an Arabic-speaking country where mosques are carefully watched by the authorities and Imams are licensed by the state.

He told me he once went to a mosque in the city where he now lives and was amazed, absolutely staggered, to find extremism being openly preached and leaflets being handed out in support of jihadists in Syria and Iraq. He said back in his home country this wouldn’t have been tolerated for one second: the mosque would have been shut down and the Imam thrown in jail. He said that this particular mosque was hardly unusual.

What he could not for the life of him understand was why the authorities in the west allow these places to remain open, preaching extremism. He says western governments, rather than hassling moderate Muslims and the general population, should simply start rounding up the obvious extremists who preach their poisonous creed with impunity. He said if they are local they should be jailed and if they are foreign they should be deported immediately.

Although I am fully wedded to the ideas of freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and due process I could not help but think my friend did have something of a valid point. It’s all very well us telling moderate Muslims that they should do more, but they might well turn around and ask when we intend to do start doing something about it. As I have said before, why should moderate Muslims put their heads above the parapet and tackle the extremists in their midst when the host governments can’t even bring themselves to admit there is a problem?

French Resistance

This is an interesting introduction to a BBC article on France:

France, despite its reputation as a beacon of progressive liberalism, has been at the forefront of a burgeoning pan-European far-right movement.

France may have a reputation as a beacon of progressive liberalism, but it is in actual fact a deeply conservative country. Indeed, the French are probably more renowned for being resistant to any kind of change than for their supposed progressive credentials.

Even socially you can see it. Third-wave feminism hasn’t gained much traction in France as elsewhere; now that the demands of the first- and second-wave feminists have largely been met, French women don’t seem to be demanding special treatment and safe spaces, nor are they complaining much about a patriarchy. And unlike their sisters in the UK, Frenchwomen have refrained from adopting the worst habits of men by going out, getting blind drunk, and having indiscriminate sex up against a bin. French women still have very old fashioned ideas about how women should dress and behave, and their approach to families and children seems like a throwback to our parents’ era. France might have taken a great leap forward in 1968 or whenever it was, but they’ve been fighting tooth and nail to prevent any kind of meaningful change every since.

Marine Le Pen, an anti-immigration Eurosceptic who may well top the first round of France’s presidential election on 23 April, is riding a populist insurgency that has been growing over the past 15 years.

Its themes are familiar in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit: concern for hardworking people, support for traditional values, and opposition to immigration and supranational busybodies.

Themes which ought to have been familiar to mainstream politicians for decades.

The title of this other BBC article is also revealing:

Is France’s online far right a threat to democracy?

“A threat to democracy” meaning, in this case, a threat to the soft left-liberal consensus of the political establishment.

I don’t think the BBC is going to do a very good job of covering this French election, do you?

Brexit According to Somebody on LinkedIn

I confess that I do find LinkedIn generally useful in that it allows me to keep a sort of CV online and keep up to date on where former colleagues are now working. Other than that, it isn’t much use: the recruiters who, in the days of $100+ oil, used to contact me via LinkedIn were, to a man, utterly useless.

In the last year or two it has morphed into a kind of weak blog where various CEOs and other industry bosses post unconvincing articles which show only that expressing their thoughts in writing isn’t something they do very often. I received a link to one such post recently on the subject of Brexit:

As a European based in London, the events leading to Brexit have left me amused and irritated in equal measure. As long-term practitioner in FinTech, I am mostly worried about understanding their impact on my industry.

A hint for Managing Partners writing articles on LinkedIn: I haven’t got a clue what FinTech is, and if I don’t, nor will others. I’m not out of the first paragraph of your piece and I’m already having to use Google: it’s Financial Technology. Why not say that?

London is arguably the premier global financial centre.

Indeed, yes.

Access to the rest of the EU is based on the acceptance of shared rules, policies and regulations, a process called “Passporting”. Should the UK wish to pursue a separate regulatory regime, EU Passporting in its current form will cease. Making London the access point to a market of 64m people with a $2.8T GDP — still sizeable but not nearly as large as what it is today.

That last sentence doesn’t make much sense, following as it does a full stop. Did anyone proof-read this before publishing? Anyway, you’ve just said London is the premier global financial centre, so why assume post-Brexit it will only be the access point to a market of 64m people?

In the meantime, the EU will undoubtedly continue on its cross-Europe harmonising drive, supported by initiatives like the Single Digital Market programme, making it even more desirable for start-ups, FinTech and otherwise, to be located in an EU country.

Really? Cross-Europe, harmonising EU directives are being welcomed by start-ups? I can see the potential for rent-seeking in the increasingly lucrative field of “compliance”, but genuine start-ups? Which ones?

Both Paris and Berlin have already started positioning themselves as an ideal alternative to London.

Have they? Have the French thrown that veritable thicket of employment regulations in the bin, then? And switched their working language to English? Or are they just hoping banks will not notice all this when doing their cost-benefit analyses?

English, a strong legal system and a good quality of life for expats may no longer be enough to make London the natural choice if access to rest of the continent is curtailed. Large corporates will begin to consider Dublin, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin more readily than before, depriving the UK from the talent pool that global players develop in the markets they settle in.

Yeah, we keep hearing how great Paris and Berlin are for businesses. One is tempted to ask why this was such a closely-guarded secret until Brexit. Others may wonder why Canary Wharf is rammed full of Frenchmen making hay in British-based banks instead of grinding out a 40-year career in BNP or SocGen in La Defense. Perhaps they went for the food and weather?

The European “Right to Move” has enabled foreign firms based in the UK to easily hire talented individuals from a pool of over 500m people. As these people got hired, they improved the quality of the already outstanding UK workforce, creating more interesting jobs that in turn attract more talented people. This process has become a virtuous circle making London one of the most dynamic workplaces in the world.

It is true that London has been able to attract top talent from the EU, and this has been made easier by the rules on free movement. But anyone who’s taken the London Underground will have noticed it is chock-full of Russians, Chinese, South Americans, Africans, Middle Easterners, and just about anybody else. Insofar as the normal British immigration rules are an impediment to companies being able to recruit foreigners from outside the EU, it doesn’t seem to be much of an obstacle.

The current regulatory complexity and costs of hiring non-EU talent would be extended to EU citizens.

And would those additional costs outweigh the costs of moving to France and hiring people there? I think we can answer that one already.

Parliament forecasts that between 2013 and 2017 the UK will need to find 745,000 workers with digital skills.

I don’t mean to be overly mocking, but we’re currently a quarter of the way into 2017. It’s probably taken Parliament until now to get their forecast out. Therein lies the danger of relying on politicians for business advice.

One of the reasons the digital revolution has hit financial services so late is the weight of regulation. The UK regulators are unusually progressive and keen supporters of innovation.

Why, yes.

Firms based in the UK benefit from being regulated by a forward-thinking regulator with oversight that stretches across the EU.

Uh-huh.

Without regulatory “Passporting”, a UK FinTech firm with EU ambitions, would have to open subsidiaries or relocate to an EU country. These additional costs and complexity will inevitably lead to slower growth, need for more capital and eventually difficulty in attracting investment at the valuations of the pre-Brexit days.

So the British regulators are smart and forward thinking compared to those in the rest of the EU, and London benefits from this, as does the rest of the EU. Therefore if Britain leaves the EU, Britain will suffer. Right. Of course, there is no mention of the fact that one of the real concerns among those who voted Leave was that the EU was seeking to impose regulations on the City of London which would have removed any advantage it currently enjoys over the rest of Europe.

London is a leading location for entrepreneurs seeking venture funding.

Yet apparently, post Brexit, this will switch to Paris where companies with more than 50 employees are compelled to establish works councils:

Any company with at least 50 employees must set up a works council (CE). This committee is composed of representatives of the staff and trade unions, with a mandate of 4 years maximum. It is chaired by the employer. It has economic, social and cultural attributes. To carry out its missions, it has hours of delegation.

Which is why my colleagues and I get subsidised lunches, half-price cinema tickets, and travel vouchers courtesy of my employer. I’m sure London’s fleet-footed financial startups are looking forward to administering all of this at their own expense. Sure, many of these companies will be below the 50-person threshold, but if that’s the case then we’ll not need to worry about tens of thousands of jobs being transferred.

Secondly, if business will have to deal with a tighter talent pool they will either grow slower or have to pay more for staff.

Does anyone seriously think the talent pool for financial services will be tighter in London post-Brexit than in Paris, Berlin, or Barcelona?

All things considered it would seem unlikely that the role of London as Europe’s financial and tech hub will not be diminished.

Yes, it will be diminished just as me flushing the toilet diminishes the water level in a reservoir somewhere. The important question is by how much? Unless somebody is prepared to properly look at the costs and difficulties of transferring operations to European cities, we ought to assume they are engaging in little more than speculation and scare-mongering. Which is probably why they are writing on LinkedIn in the first place.

Yet More Jihad Fatigue

When the news of yesterday’s attacks in London reached me I was sitting at my desk diligently working on engineering designs which would, if implemented, unquestionably contribute to the betterment of mankind. The contrast between my selfless efforts and the mindless destruction of human life in Westminster could not have been more stark, and as one of the few Brits in the office I believed it was my duty to make every discussion thereafter about me and how I felt.

My first thoughts went out to those whose job it is to respond to such incidents, the people on whom we rely to bring order to the chaos, provide comfort where it is needed, and return things to normal. I am referring, of course, to those responsible for switching the lighting schemes on global landmarks into displays of meaningless solidarity. It was but a simple task to light up the Sydney opera house in the tricolor of France, or the Brandenburg gate in the red, black, and yellow of the Belgian flag. But what to do when an Islamist massacre happens in the UK?

A solution came from an expected source: Israel. Since its formation Israel has been plagued with terror attacks and hence is far better prepared to respond to them than perhaps any other nation. It was therefore unsurprising that within hours of the attack, the town hall in Tel Aviv had been transformed thusly:

Seeing this was triggering for me, though. It reminded me of the early 1990s and playing Wolfenstein 3D which would go all pixellated if you ran too close to something, like a Swastika or British flag, and this was during the time of the IRA mainland bombing campaigns and painful memories came flooding back. So although the Israelis meant well, this really didn’t help much and I might have fucked up a crucial element of my engineering calculations.

Besides, nobody is interested in how Israelis respond to terror attacks, even if their methods are strikingly effective. By which I mean air strikes on those believed responsible, of course. No, this attack on the UK required a European response, especially given the motivation of the terrorist might well turn out to be the grim realities of Brexit. At this stage, we just don’t know. So just as Prime Minister Manuel Valls said “times have changed, and we should learn to live with terrorism”, it was once again the French who provided much-needed leadership in these difficult times:

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced Wednesday evening local time that the city’s most famous landmark would go dark in solidarity with those killed and injured near the British Parliament building earlier in the day.

Given that I live in Paris I found this doubly touching, so much so that I touched a female colleague in a clumsy attempt at solidarity. I now have to report to HR this morning. However, and while I do not wish to disparage the brave efforts of those running the Eiffel Tower lighting display for one second, the whole affair does raise some worrying questions.

For instance, is turning off lights really the same as displaying the national colours? Why, given how commonplace these attacks are becoming in Europe, were lighting systems not upgraded to cope with all national flags? If the Israelis can manage it, why can’t we? Surely it can’t be a matter of cost? We were perhaps fortunate that this time it was just London. A friend back in the UK overheard a worried-looking policeman say to his colleague “What if it had been in Cardiff?” One can only imagine. I can only hope and pray that no such attack takes place in Croatia, Slovakia, or even Portugal but if it does I further hope and pray that the appropriate authorities will be ready this time.

Having been calmed down somewhat by the prompt actions of the Paris mayor, my next concern was perhaps equally unsettling: what cutesy image can I put on my Facebook profile to show that I care? I waited and waited for a graphic artist to come up with Cutesy Image of the Massacre™ for this particular event but none came, and I was feeling completely helpless. I even asked one of my more talented colleagues to design one for me as visions of cashing in big-time flashed before my eyes, but his initial idea of a teddy bear in a bobby’s uniform left me cold, especially when I saw it was carrying its own severed head. Perhaps I should have asked somebody other than Abdul. Fortunately, the stoic Londoners shrugged off adversity as they always do and came through with this:

I felt better immediately, although if I’m honest I wasn’t afraid before: I’m in Paris after all, miles from Westminster. I wasn’t even afraid when Islamist nutters were on one of their rampages around these parts because by the time I heard about them everyone was already dead and I was still alive and well. So I wasn’t afraid. Perhaps I ought to have been angry, but alas these days I just feel so weary. I spoke to a doctor and he said it was simply a case of Jihad Fatigue. There’s been a lot of it going around lately, and my symptoms were so far gone that when people mentioned the one year anniversary of the massacre in Brussels, I’d completely forgotten it had taken place.

The words of Manuel Valls quoted above, which were echoed by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan last September when he said terrorist attacks were simply “part and parcel of living in a big city”, were absolutely right. Random people being murdered by Islamic terrorists is something we’re going to have to get used to, because the leadership isn’t interested in doing anything about it and the majority of citizens are not interested in electing leaders who are. For my part, I intend to sell everything I own and invest the proceeds into the suppliers of high-resolution, large scale lighting equipment. The world is gonna need more of them.

Chaos at Orly

I’m rather glad I went through Orly airport last weekend, not this one:

A man has been shot dead after trying to seize a soldier’s weapon at Orly airport in Paris, French officials say.

He was killed by the security forces in a shop after the attack in the airport’s southern terminal.

The airport has been shut after what the authorities described as an extremely serious incident.

The eye witnesses interviewed in the article are clearly unfamiliar with France and how things are done over here:

“We were sitting in Hall Three when all of a sudden people started running and telling us to run with them,” Ellie Guttetter, 18, from the US said.

“The people running were passengers and flight attendants. It was pretty chaotic and everyone was panicking – it was scary.”

Another eyewitness, Meredith Dixon, described seeing panicked airline personnel, with no security or police personnel to usher people outside the airport complex.

“It was complete chaos,” she told the BBC.

“There were no alarms. No overhead announcements. No organised evacuation. People just began running.

“In the meantime, passengers kept arriving at the airport. I am stunned that after the events in this country, and Paris in particular, the airport had no organised evacuation plan for what I would surmise is a high-value target.”

This doesn’t surprise me in the least. A few years back a friend of mine, a Russian, was travelling on an Air France flight when one of the passengers took ill. She started having some kind of seizure and collapsed on the floor. The stewardesses had no idea what to do and so called their chief from first class, a man. He arrived and also had no idea what to do and started to panic. This induced panic in the rest of the stewardesses which was quickly transferred to the nearby passengers. Eventually somebody got the sick woman some medicine from within her hand baggage and things calmed down. I remarked to my friend that I’d seen a similar incident take place on an Aeroflot flight and the stewardesses just took it in their stride: asked some firm questions, got the answers, and administered some medicine. My friend and I also had a discussion about how Russians, especially men, really aren’t prone to panic. Stuff goes catastrophically wrong in Russia so often that people are used to it, and learn to deal with it. I expect the Aeroflot staff wouldn’t panic even if the plane was upside down and on fire.

Chaos and panic are common in France, as is poor organisation, especially when things go wrong. There are reasons for this. In France, promotions in organisations are achieved not by the calm, consistent delivery of quality output but by firstly being a member of an elite group, and then secondly by doing everything in your power to stand out in meetings where the hierarchy is present, preferably by making your rivals look stupid. One of the most common ways to do this is to “challenge” somebody or something, i.e. make yourself look smarter than whoever set up the prevailing orthodoxy. Nobody got anywhere in France by following the rules; those who want to get ahead must learn to break them as a matter of routine.

They would have had an evacuation plan at Orly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve actually held drills. The problem is, every drill would have gone differently as successive people in charge decided they knew better than the person who drew up the plan. Yes, if you spend a decade or more climbing the greasy pole in a French organisation, eventually you start to believe your own bullshit and genuinely think you know more than anyone else. Until the shit really hits the fan that is, and then it’s panic followed rapidly by finding somebody to blame. France has some of the most brilliant minds in the world at its disposal, but sound management eludes them and they lack leaders almost entirely.

It is worth looking at the fate of Air France 447, which came down in 2009 between Rio de Janeiro and Paris. A 2011 article in Popular Mechanics went into considerable detail as to the causes of the crash, going through the cockpit recordings line-by-line. It paints a dismal picture of experienced pilots engaged in a litany of human errors as they abandon warnings, procedures, and protocols because – presumably – they think they know better. When I first read about this the crash started to make sense.

The primary reason for intensive training in dealing with emergency scenarios and carrying out drills is to ensure key people will be familiar with the chaotic environment and won’t panic, and each person will know exactly what their role is so, together, they can bring the situation under control. But French organisations have a culture of promoting highly-ambitious, usually very intelligent people who are extremely individualistic and must demonstrate their brilliance by throwing orthodoxy out of the window.

I’m not saying any other country could manage an airport attack better than the French authorities managed the one at Orly this morning. But I’m not in the least surprised that there was chaos, panic, and a complete lack of anyone in charge. This goes to the very heart of their organisational culture.

Chinese Tourists Robbed in Paris

Commenter “Hugely Ceebs” points me towards this article:

Tourists from China are avoiding France amid surging violence and crime, a Chinese tourism expert has said, reporting that customers are turning to Russia as a safer destination.

President of the Chinese Association of Travel Agencies in France, Jean-François Zhou, said “increasingly violent” thefts and assaults are turning France into “one of the worst destinations for foreign tourists”.

Mr. Zhou, a representative for major Chinese travel agency Utour in France, reported a steep decline in visitor numbers from Asia, and said many tourists are now looking to Russia as a less dangerous holiday destination.

I’m going to take that with a pinch of salt. Firstly it’s Breibart; secondly the situation might be being exaggerated; thirdly nobody will go on holiday to Russia instead of Paris.

But that said:

“[Chinese tourists] are robbed in the palace of Versailles, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, in front of their hotel, as they leave the coaches … In high season, not a day goes by without tourists being assaulted.”

There is a massive problem with pickpockets, beggars, thieves, scam artists, hawkers, and general criminals around the main tourist areas of Paris, particularly under the Eiffel Tower and the steps leading up to Montmartre outside the Sacré Cœur. I have known a few visitors who have had their bag snatched or pocket picked in these areas, and the perpetrators are many in number and loitering in full display of everyone waiting for an opportunity. I have often wondered why the police don’t clear them out but am told that when they do, they just move onto somewhere else. For whatever reason, probably something to do with fear of being called racist, the authorities don’t clear them out permanently.

But the situation is getting worse and can’t go on forever. It might be that the Chinese tourist agents have received a lot of complaints and they have decided to issue a warning to the French to sort it out or they really will start looking elsewhere. If this is the case then good: it’s high time somebody said something.