The Social Network

Different countries, different styles.  Today the new French administration has begun what they claim to be a new collaborative style of formulating social policy (by “social” we are adopting the French use of the word, to refer to all aspects of employment and industrial policy).  The Prime Minister and a cohort of senior Ministers are receiving, one by one, each of the heads of the eight major employees’ and employers’ unions today as the first stage of preparing the Social Sumit this July.

But is this apparently collaborative approach a welcome break from the past, or reinforcing the critcism of the Socialists that they are remote from the world of business? Continue reading


Reviewing the Government

The new cabinet, the first appointed by Jean-Marc Ayrault, Prime Minister, in consultation with newly elected President François Hollande, has been announced.  Here’s a post-by-post review of “Ayrault 1” and what it tells us about the future direction of the new administration. Continue reading

How to Choose a Prime Minister

The choice of a Prime Minister is the most important political decision that a French President makes.  It sends an indellible signal about the direction of the government, its priorities and its style.  The choice of a newly elected President carries political weight.  It indicates how strong he believes his position to be, both in the country and within his own party.  Traditionally the first Prime Minister has been imposed on Presidents by circumstances: Valéry Giscard d’Estaing forced to balance his own camp by naming rising star Jacques Chirac, or François Miterrand doing the same with Michel Rocard.

François Hollande named Jean-Marc Ayrault as Prime Minister yesterday.  His final decision was likely between Martin Aubry and Ayrault – two heavy weights in the party.  Ayrault is a longtime friend of Hollande and fervant supporter during the primary election.  He is also much like the new President in temperament and style.  But the choice includes a number of risks, meaning that this safe pair of hands may not be as safe as it first appears. Continue reading

Voting for Mr White

On 6 May, one nameless candidate managed to sneak into the news, scoring 2.1 million votes in the run-off election between Messrs Sarkozy and Hollande. The spoilt ballot – or voting “blank” (blanc) in French surged from 4.2% to 5.8% in 2012 compared to 2007

Surged? Well, yes, it is fair in this case to describe a jumps of 1.6% as a surge given the nature of the election, and in particular due to the position of the Third Man of this election, Marine Le Pen.

Continue reading

A Question of Numbers

How much of a win is enough?  François Hollande is tempted to say, anything over 50% is a win.  He is of course mathematically right, but politics is never that simple.  Given that the official figures confirm this morning that Hollande won with 51.62% of the vote compared to Nicolas Sarkozy’s 48.38% of the vote, discussions abound over the margin of the victory.  What does this mean for Hollande’s presidency and the so-called “third round” – the forthcoming legislative elections – which he must win in order to be able to govern at all. Continue reading

In the beginning

The last of the polls have just closed for the second round of the French Presidential election of 2012.  Exit pollsters have been talking discretely about a Socialist victory since the beginning of the afternoon and their verdict is now official.  Whether François Hollande has won with a margin of 52.5% to 47.5% for Nicolas Sarkozy or even more than that, it is enough to bring the Socialists back to the Elysée Palace for the first time since 1995.

I didn’t vote.  I’m not entitled to in this country.  For I am one of the 7.2 million foreign citizens living in France.  Whilst I am unable to sound off about national politics in the ballot box, this blog is my 2 cents.

I have been what can awkwardly be described as “centre-left”, politically speaking.  The word “Socialist” seems to me to be somewhat antiquated; the word “Social-Democrat” smacks of something that came out of a focus group.  So left’s stay with “centre-left”.  Why is that important?  Because this blog seeks to be a critical but interested (politically speaking) tool to both explain and analyse the progress of the new French left-wing administration.  I’m a market-friendly, capitalist who believes in private enterprise and wealth creation, but I don’t see any contradiction with an element of state intervention in serious cases, I don’t have an issue with regulating the market and I am in favour of social safety nets.  Whether the French government that will now begin to move into their new offices, believe that is not at all clear.

So let’s see if I can maintain my balance on the tightrope that will be French politics for the next five years.  And more importantly, whether those that have been elected can…