Letter From The Président

I’ve been rather neglecting politics lately, having been preoccupied with anglers and sheep. (Still no lamb or lambs from No. 27. No. 28 is a little less splotchy now. We’re still giving her a dietary supplement on her granules twice a day – easy peasy – and that penicillin injection every night – not so easy, but once you’ve got a good grip on her wool she goes quiet. And I haven’t gone into anaphylactic shock through a misadministered jab yet either – so far.)

But back to the forthcoming elections. They’re starting to loom menacingly on the horizon. The Mairie at Nouzerines has erected extra wood panelling for a concerted postering campaign. This morning one of the commune’s employees was carefully measuring up and marking lines on the boards, making sure that each of the ten of the them was exactly the same size! I held the end of the tape measure for her while we were waiting for Ruadhri’s school bus to arrive. I’ve told you before how good I am at holding things when I’m helping Chris.

Both Sarkozy and Hollande have sent me long letters. Sarko’s first. This is a LONG letter. It opens with the first couple of sentences in handwriting. I think we’re meant to think that he handwrote the whole thing. It would have taken him about a week if he had. However, it’s a nice touch and encouraging to see that the Président has worse handwriting than I do. So what does he say? He’s glad to be contacting me directly without  going through an intermediary. Well, who wouldn’t be! He talks about the new world that’s being born – one with financial crises and strong non-Western powers emerging in the world, i.e. China. He goes onto security, mentioning the recent events in Montauban and Toulouse and emphasising that France must be well armed and strong. Ideologies of hatred and delinquence won’t be tolerated. Europe is a good thing and France will remain an open country where other people of other nationalities can come and live, but they must be prepared to embrace the French way of life and contribute to it. But he’s not prepared to go as far as giving us the vote, tant pis. Responsibility, professional training, young people, nurturing rural areas – he talks about it all. I lost interest by page 27 of the 39 of the document, I confess. But it’s impressive to get something like that. I never had anything similar in the UK or Ireland.

Hollande’s ‘letter’ is actually the talk he gave on 4 April at Rennes. There are an awful lot of exclamation marks. Should I take him less seriously than Sarkozy? It’s very rousing with paragraphs such as this: Mon message est simple ce soir, et je le répéterai autant de jours qu’il conviendra. Il faut changer : changer d’avenir, changer de politique, changer de président ! Je veux être le président du redressement, le président de la justice, le président du rassemblement, le président de la jeunesse de France ! (My message tonight is simple and I’ll repeat every day between now and the election. We need change: we must change the future, change politics, change the President! I want to be the president of putting things right, the president of justice, the president of gatherings, the president of the young people of France!)

And so on and so forth. It’s not as meaty as Sarko’s missive and again, my eyes glazed over before I got to the end. But that’s me and politics. However, I did try to read it all!

The current favourite is Sarko by a whisker. Since he’s the only pro-Auto-entrepreneur candidate out there as far as I can make out, I’ll be happy enough if he gets in, although I hope he will make more of an effort to curb the spending excesses and be more in touch with the majority of French people i.e. hard working, non-wealthy people. But we’ll see.

Blog In France – 400, And Just Warming Up

Party time – 400th blog post today! Sadly I’m full of flu so not inclined for a knees-up, but please have one on my behalf. Thanks to you all for following me. I had my best month ever in February 2012 with just under 4,000 hits and that’s brilliant!

Today’s title is a sort of slogan. I mentioned a few of the presidential candidates’ slogans recently and I’m returning to the theme. I discovered that Sarkozy’s La France Forte isn’t original. How shameful! In 1974 Valéry Giscard d’Estaing ran with Il faut une France forte (France must be strong). He won the election and at 48 years of age became France’s third youngest President. Sarkozy must be hoping that if it worked for VGd’E, it will work for him.

There are more echoes of previous slogans. François Hollande tells us this year that Le changement, c’est maintenant (Change is now). (He has been in touch for another €2 from me, by the way. This amount would allow him to get in contact another 200 people, presumably to touch them for €2 too! Cunning.) His former partner Ségolene Royale had Le changement as her catchphrase in the last elections in 2007. (Sarko went for Ensemble, tout devient possible (Together everything is possible). It was certainly possible for him to more than double his salary and spend upwards of 200 million euros on a Presidential plane, including €65,000 on special bread oven for it, that’s for sure.

La France forte hints at national security, but doesn’t actually say anything. It’s what they call langue du bois here – wooden language. It’s soothing but vacuous – politically correct. People can bring their own meaning to it. A slogan doesn’t make a campaign anyway. It’s TV and increasingly the Internet that play the important part in winning voters these days. Slogans and posters are simply part of the package, but not very effective. You can’t really judge slogans apart from deducing after the event  that the best one is the winner’s one.

It isn’t cheap running a presidential campaign. In 2007 Sarko and Royale spent over €20 million each. (That seems a lot, but pales into insignificance next to the €550 million Obama spent on his in 2008.) The ‘minor’ candidates who won less than 5% of the votes were given €800,000 towards their campaign costs, and the ‘major’ ones had reimbursements of €10 million each. Aren’t taxpayers wonderful things!

To finish a couple of firsts for today, 1st of March. Saw my first bee of the year and my first wasp, put on the first dollop of suncream when I was sitting outside reading the extremely enjoyable Perking The Pansies by Jack Scott on my Kindle, and today was the first day we didn’t have a fire going in the grate from the moment we got up until we went to bed. Only just lit it now. Yes, winter’s over.