Gideon Rachman looks at Le Pen. I use this as my starting point for some thoughts on the French election & The Financial Times’ coverage of this contest. By Political Reporter

Look at the surfeit of information available to the the reader of the Financial Times regarding French politics and its current political actors: Le Pen, Sarkozy,Fillon, Juppé :

Headline: Marine Le Pen lays out radical vision to govern France

Sub-headline: National Front leader is the biggest political force ahead of a presidential election in 2017, of March 5, 2015

Headline: Nicolas Sarkozy seeks to seduce the French with tales of Gaul

Sub-headline: With an eye on the presidency, he makes a blatant pitch for the anti-immigrant vote : of September 26, 2016

Headline: Fillon shakes up France’s unpredictable presidential race

Sub-headline: Former PM will battle Juppé in next vote to be candidate of right, writes Tony Barber, of November 20, 2016

Headline :The third man Fillon achieves star billing in French primaries

Sub-headline: Former prime minister eclipses rivals in France’s centre-right primary election, of November 21, 2016

At a time when anger at inequality and the damage caused by globalisation threatens to upend the west’s postwar consensus, Mr Fillon — who came from third place in polls to win the first round of a centre-right primary election on Sunday — has thrived with a promise of a free-market revolution inspired by Margaret Thatcher. (Italics ed.)

I read Mr. Rachman’s essay on Le Pen yesterday, and decided to give myself some time to ruminate on the questions he raised. Mr. Rachman and the other apologists for the Neo-Liberal Utopianism, that collapsed in 2008, and the failure of its ideological twin, a belief in the Self-correcting Market, have proven to be the product of the windy Myths of the Hayek/Mises/Friedman intellectual collective, or just call it the apotheosis of the dogma’s  of The Mont Pelerin Society.

The central myopia of Mr. Rachman’s political critique is an inability to confront the failure of that codified Utopianism and its successor of Austerity, and its project of the decimation of The Welfare State, as a the product of political opportunism. That project, of the decimation of The Welfare State, being another contributing factor to the rise of a benighted populism, in the face of economic collapse. The persistent of that economic malaise, in technocratic parlance.  In sum, that myopia makes the rise of ‘The Rebellion Against The Elites’ as somehow inexplicable, to the collection of ‘experts’ who, for ideological reasons, will not, cannot, emancipate themselves from their belief, even in the face of its demonstrative record of ignominious failure. Mr. Rachman confronts the Party Line of the Financial Times  ‘The Rebellion Against The Elites’ with ‘The Panic of the Elites’ of the ‘more sober heads in London’ as somehow a credible answer!

More sober heads in London, however, must surely realise that the rise of the French far-right cannot ultimately be good news for Britain. A National Front victory in France would mean that the forces of authoritarian nationalism would be flourishing across Europe, from Moscow to Warsaw to Budapest and Paris. Under Mr Trump, the US could no longer be relied upon as a stabilizing force to push back against political extremism in Europe.

On the question of French politics and the ‘Le Pen Question’: isn’t it instructive that  Sarkozy appropriated some of the vocabulary of Le Pen’s inherited political nostalgia, given a careful revision to appeal to the current respectable bourgeois tastes, as an in-order-to of making himself more electable, in an utterly changed political environment. One of  reasons for that changed environment being the election of Trump. Yet the reality of the Trump victory should be viewed with two provisos: Clinton won the popular vote and was defeated in the utterly anachronistic Electoral College: note that this College has benefited both Bush The Younger and Trump! And reflecting on the startling,sobering fact that 46.9%  of voters who cast ballots did not vote for either Clinton or Trump: this expression of collapsed legitimacy of both candidates and both Parties is also beyond the ken of Mr. Rachman.

Note that Fillon ran as a Neo-Liberal inspired by Margaret Thatcher, he is a Conservative Catholic and against Gay Marriage. Will  French voters elect a candidate who holds Neo-Liberalism to be the answer to ‘French Gloom’, with the Western Economic Crisis being the result of such catastrophic policies? The fact is that the ‘Free Market Revolution’ was and is a prescription for disaster is irrelevant! Yet Fillon remains the Knight of Neo-Liberal Faith, who believes that ‘speed’ and ‘shock'( an echo of F. T. Marinetti?) will relive ‘French Gloom’, it boggles the mind! Is this a case of the lesser of two evils? Fillon rather than Le Pen?

Headline: Rightwing hopeful eyes shock tactics to lift France

Sub-headline:Fillon is ready to take on trade unions with string of contentious policies,published November 6, 2016

Mr Fillon accepts that his measures — scrapping the limit on weekly working hours, extending retirement age, slashing benefits and cutting civil service jobs to fund €40bn in tax breaks for companies — would probably trigger massive strikes and protests. But he stands ready to take on the unions.

“At some point, unions have to feel there’s determination and strong will,” the 62-year-old tells the Financial Times in his National Assembly office in Paris. “French politicians have been conditioned by years of government retreats in the face of union protests. There might be a showdown but the government must prepare for it.”

An amateur racer who likes the idea of taking part in the celebrated 24-hour event in his home town of Le Mans, Mr Fillon says his recipe is speed. He would legislate by presidential decree on part of his platform in the wake of the election and create a “shock” to eradicate French gloom, he says.

What of Juppé the moderate?

Headline: Alain Juppé attacks François Fillon in effort to regain ground

Sub-headline: Bordeaux mayor tries to win over liberal voters after rival takes first-round lead

With centre-right voters due to choose one of the men as their presidential candidate on Sunday, Mr Juppé turned his fire on his rival’s economic policies, saying they were too radical and unfair to more vulnerable workers.

He also sought to rally women’s support and highlight differences with Mr Fillon by demanding that his rival “clarify his position” on abortion rights.

“Change must not consist in tearing down the house because the house is fragile,” Mr Juppé said. “We must implement reforms … Mine are as bold, but they are realistic and credible.”

Mr Fillon’s plans to cut 500,000 civil service jobs in five years, raise weekly working hours for civil servants from 35 hours to 39 hours as early as 2017, and raise an extra €16bn from value added tax would cause “great social brutality” and “some [measures] are not enforceable,” Mr Juppé insisted on television on Monday.

Political Reporter


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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