Day 21 – Three Men (and a Woman) in a … Pocket-Handkerchief

It’s still so close that The Four are indeed in what is referred to localement as a mouchoir de poche … and every under-imaginative headline-writer has adopted the same phrase.

Juicy(ish) quotes

Fillon on Sens Commun: Interviewed on Radio J (Paris region Jewish radio station) Fillon is asked whether members of Sens Commun (the political wing of France’s anti gay marriage movement) could be in his Government. He tells the waiting secular world (Easter weekend – when else): ‘Why not? [they are] French men and women, proud of their country, attached to their traditions, for whom I have great respect. [It’s] intolerable … that certain commentators and political elites … discredit some French people’.

Le Pen on Macron (his party is En Marche): ‘With Macron it will be Islamism en marche, communautaurisme en marche … It is important that the French understand that if, by misfortune, he is elected President, he will further speed up the multicultural drift into which French society is sinking and will worsen a multicultural conflict.’

Mélenchon on Cuba: ‘I have never approved of the way in which Cuba was politically organised … I do not intend to turn France into Cuba.’

Le Parisien editorial on Mélenchon: ‘Work less, earn more and eat healthily. That’s a brief summary of dream-merchant Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s unassailable programme … which strongly resembles those of Chavez for Venezuela, Tsipras for Greece and Podemos for Spain: three utopias each broken against the walls of economic and political reality’.

Fillon cheerleader Bertrand (boss of North East France Region) tweeted to Sarkozy/Juppé: ‘Your presence at Lille, Tuesday, with F Fillon would be a strong sign’. Can they refuse?

Mélenchon on the EU: ‘We are on a volcano … [If negotiations] to harmonise social systems … currently forbidden [don’t succeed] we’ll leave. But France will be heard … The €100 billion we will borrow for investment purposes will generate between €150 – €300 billion activity. There are two ideas. First that of the European Union, under the yoke of Germany, which requires public expenditure to be cut … We however have decided to relaunch the economy … With me, the German Government will have the surprise of its life, they are going to see a Frenchman who will tell them ‘No’ … Mr Schauble [German Finance Minister] knows very well that I am not Alexis Tsipras: they are not going to shut me away in an office for 17 hours with someone who insults me … M Juncker has made 4 proposals; there will be one more: change the Treaties and create convergence criteria for social and fiscal harmonisation. I will tell them we are Europe’s 2nd most powerful country and that without us there’s no Europe. That’s my weapon. The Germans cannot say no to us. The Spanish, Italians, Portuguese and Poles, a whole series of countries have had enough. If the Germans don’t want to move, then Plan B will be to leave with those who agree with us and start again.’

Fillon on his opponents [no longer with the luxury of attacking Macron alone]: ‘I get angry when I see the heights that demagoguery has reached in this campaign … Macron’s demagoguery: he agrees with everyone and will be as incapable as Hollande of deciding anything at all. And the demagoguery of those who invent wild new ideas because real solutions are not part of their ideology: The 32 hour working week. Universal basic income. Return to the French Franc. Closing borders. Sixth Republic.’

Mélenchon on Mélenchon (Le Parisien): ‘I will be in the 2nd round … No, I am not from the extreme left … I am ready to govern … The left has been betrayed by the Government in every possible way … Logically, the French will give me a majority in the Parliamentary Elections … ‘

Fillon on Fillon (Le Journal de Dimanche):  ‘I have found a kind of serenity which I’m surprised at. I know I will be in the 2nd round. I have this deep belief.’

Trot Poutou asked what would be his first act as President: ‘A symbolic gesture against all the wars today: get rid of the 14th July military parade.’

President Hollande on Mélenchon – and the campaign (tonight – France 5): ‘You cannot say no-one is responsible for the chemical massacres [in Syria]. You cannot allow Putin to do whatever he wants. You cannot leave NATO without there being consequences. You cannot question the fundamental European construction … The campaign has not allowed any debate on the programmes … What have we talked about during this campaign? Scandals, people being charged, pretend secret Government operations … My role is to talk about the risks we might be taking.’

A small quiet town … and how it became a small quiet Front National town

This good article from the New York Times (thanks Helen) is another of those thoughtful, but gloomy, pieces which attempt to understand what is happening here in France. It ends with interviews and background on quiet, unassuming Villers-Cotterêts – birthplace of Three Musketeers Dumas. Ruled alternately by the Centre-right and Socialists for 60 years … since 2014, there has been a Front National Mayor and Council.

I was in Villers-Cotterêts on Friday evening. That was, by chance, where the first of 20 dinners, organised by three enterprising young people (Adam, Edward, Francesca) were being held. A Tour de France of Dinners: intended to encourage dialogue between unlike-minded people, around a meal. A Table! CitoyensBon appetit.

Onward Christian Soldiers

  • Fillon evidently thought Easter weekend was as appropriate a time as any to ‘revive’ his ‘Operation Seduction with the Catholics’ (Le Monde).
  • His website has: ’12 measures to benefit middle eastern Christians and minorities’
  • In Puy-en-Velay  (both its Cathedral and its lentils are deservedly renowned), a pilgrimage route to St-Jacques-de-Compostelle, Fillon spoke of a subject which ‘transcends the election and which has, nevertheless, always been at its centre … the identity of our nation … of France.’ He spoke of France’s ‘cultural insecurity’ as well as ‘Islamic totalitarianism’. ‘We don’t any longer dare to utter such words as ‘identity’ or ‘France’ or ‘nation’ or ‘homeland’ or ‘roots’ or ‘culture’. We are required to keep a low profile. Actually. No. Together we will say what we want.’ [Sounds like an upmarket version of the Front National’s long-standing chant ‘On est chez nous‘.]

    ‘It wasn’t chance’, said Fillon, ‘that had led him to choose this place to speak about our homeland … because here I feel, almost physically, in my blood … the confluence of our history, our roots and our geography.’ He said he was worried that the ‘thread of our history’ was being lost. [I hear the sound of (not-so-) distant dogwhistles – even Le Figaro said he was ‘The Voice of Patriotism’]

  • Fillon followed that, last night, with a Coptic Mass in Chatenay-Malabry

Le Monde editorial: ‘A national meltdown’

For half a century, the Presidential Election has been the motor of French political life, the moment when the landscape was reassembled … At the moment, the 2017 election appears, above all, to be the motor of an accelerated breakdown … The candidates of the two great parties that have governed the country for decades – the Socialists and the Right – have scarcely more than a quarter of prospective voters … the hard left and the nationalist extreme right which, until now, were satisfied with shaking up the system, today appear capable of qualifying for the decisive run-off.

Further, a majority of the French appear open to supporting candidates who are willing to put aside the most elementary economic disciplines, to consider unimportant the weight of the French public debt, to break free of constraints thus making budgetary and trade deficits worse, to think of financial markets as ridiculous paper tigers …

Eight of the eleven candidates envisage, in some form or other, leaving the EU and the Eurozone if the others, beginning with Germany, don’t bend to their demands. As if France can better face the great challenges of tomorrow (climate change, migration crises, terrorist threat etc) by counting on its own resources rather than working hard in common with European partners. And this is without even mentioning the culpable indulgence shown by three of the main candidates (François Fillon, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon) towards regimes which scorn the most elementary human rights (Russia) when they are not massacring their own people (Syria).

Past and present Governments are, without doubt, principally responsible for this craze for the most unrealistic and questionable projects. By failing to resolve several key problems – massive and endemic unemployment, uncompetitive companies, social and regional inequalities, a European project that has stagnated – they have undermined the French people’s confidence in their leaders.

Is that why the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater? Because past commitments haven’t been honoured, is that a reason for leaving it to wishful thinking and giving credence to the most far-fetched, dangerous promises being proffered? Is that a reason for treating ourselves to a national meltdown when what’s at stake is choosing the President of the fifth largest world power? We would rather believe it wasn’t.’

Opinion Polls

The average of the last 7 polls since 11 April (using the only sort of ‘average’ I really understand, ie add up all the numbers and divide by 7 … but, importantly, take no account of different sample sizes) produces:

Macron 23%, Le Pen 22.5%, Fillon 19.5%, Mélenchon 19%

The most recent poll (BVA) is:

Macron 23%, Le Pen 22%, Mélenchon 20%, Fillon 20% [taxi for Mr Hamon – 7.5%].

BVA comments ‘it’s impossible to separate the [Top Four] and any scenario appears possible [for Round 1]. Although Macron v Le Pen is the most probable outcome for [Round 2] the qualification of Fillon or Mélenchon cannot be excluded.’

  • 67% of Macron’s voters are sure of their choice – of those who might change their mind, one-third would vote Mélenchon and a quarter would vote Fillon
  • 80% of Le Pen voters are solid – she’s lost support to Mélenchon among the young and the working class
  • 66% of Mélenchon voters are sure of their choice – he’s most chosen candidate for ‘personality’ (17% – average 12% for the rest) – but 57% pick him for his programme
  • 78% of Fillon voters are sure of their choice – 61% pick him for his programme

BVA currently estimates a turnout of 72-77%, but it could well be less, with only 63% saying they are absolutely certain to vote. A lower overall turnout will, says BVA, help Fillon (high turnout among those aged 65+) and to a lesser extent Macron (senior managers/professionals/university degrees have a higher turnout); a higher overall turnout will increase the Le Pen/Mélenchon vote with more young/workers voting.

In any event, forecasts BVA, turnout will not exceed 2012’s first Round 79.5%, because of:

  • a campaign evaluated as mediocre (quality rating 4.1 out of 10)
  • low interest level – 72% ‘interested’ but only 42% ‘a lot’

A third of voters certain to vote for someone other than Le Pen say they could vote for someone different at the last minute to try to prevent Le Pen getting to the 2nd round – this could particularly affect the ever-disappearing Hamon vote.

2nd round vote:

  • Macron beats Le Pen (36%), Fillon (36%), Mélenchon (42%)
  • Mélenchon beats Le Pen (40%), Fillon (42%)
  • Fillon beats Le Pen (42%)
  • [Fillon v Le Pen: 34% undecided; all other combinations 18-27% undecided]

Out on the Streets

They all were.

No new leaflets.

Lots of lively discussion.


2 thoughts on “Day 21 – Three Men (and a Woman) in a … Pocket-Handkerchief

  1. Between two varieties of Trotskyist, five Extreme Right (some just a weensy bit Lite), a Serious Socialist, a Seriously Hard Conservative who wants to bring the political wing of the anti-gay-marriage movement into his Government, a Hard Left dreamer who speaks like a dream, and an Extreme Centrist who spent the first half hour of his speech yesterday barely saying a single word. If that’s choice … the French indeed have it.


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