Here Beginneth Year 2: The Return of The Right.

Bye-elections: doncha just love ’em?

Actually, when there’s near zero jeopardy, most people don’t give a monkey’s. Hence the first round of the first two of six pending bye-elections eight pending bye-elections (two more added last Friday) for Parliamentary Deputy were held among a largely uninterested* electorate and to the indifference of (most of) the country.

The original elections were part of last June’s let-President-Macron-have-his-clear-Parliamentary-majority-but-not-an-all-destroying-victory. Six Eight elections had later been nullified by the Constitutional Council for a variety of reasons and are to be re-run.

Last Sunday’s first round of bye-election voting produced a (not wholly unrespectable) 30% turnout in Pontoise (Greater Paris suburbs, some 30k NW of Paris) and semi-total-apathy in Belfort (eastern France) where barely one in five went a-voting.

The sitting Deputies who won last year’s original Elections were the conservative Républicains in Belfort (a traditional Républicain seat) and La République en Marche (LREM) in Pontoise (a centre-right seat for 30+ years, until won by President Macron’s Party last year).

Wauquiez (leader of the Républicains) decided to make the Pontoise bye-election more of a national test by appearing at a Constituency public meeting this week … and reminded voters about the increasing price of petrol (yes really) – rapidly followed the following day in Pontoise by Macron’s Prime Minister, Philippe, for the LREM.

Some thoughts on the direction of travel of France’s political parties can be ventured, even on such thin electoral non-evidence.

Going up:

  • Gloom for the electoral process – reflecting Northern France’s unsunny winter
  • Les Républicains – votes up in Belfort from last June’s 28% to 39%, also up in Pontoise from June’s 18% to 24%: maybe all helping to persuade recently-elected Républicains leader, Wauquiez (does he need persuading?) to adopt policies which are still more vigorously hard-right-in-tooth-and-claw

Going down a bit (but definitely not as badly as might have been expected for a governing Party after several months, having made some big Labour Law changes):

  • La République en Marche down from 36% to 29% in Pontoise – still reasonably positive for a rural(ish) area where Macron’s often made less impact than in towns
  • The Government’s centre Party partner, MoDem, down from 32% to 27% in Belfort

Going down somewhat further (considerably worse than might have been imagined for The Combined Opposition after nearly 9 months of Macron’s Presidency)

  • The Left as a whole (France Insoumise/Ecologists/Socialists/ANOther) totalled 20% in Belfort, down from last June’s 24%; the Left held its vote-share overall in Pontoise
  • The Hard Right (NF/Patriots/Debout la France) collectively gathered 13% in Belfort – down from the NF’s 17% last June – with the Front National itself losing 10 points in Belfort and 5 points in Pontoise

That far down they can hardly go much further :

  • Socialist Party – ‘attracted’ 2.6% of the Belfort voters and finished a dismal 6th, while 5th in Pontoise with 7% of the vote. A once-serious political Party brought low … and getting no closer to Hard Left Mélenchon’s France Insoumise Party (11% in each constituency)
  • Phillipot’s Patriots Party – having (been) broken away from the Front National – had a rather disappointing first political outing: 2% in Belfort and 1.2% in Pontoise

In both Belfort and Pontoise, this Sunday’s run-off election (between the two candidates who’d led in the 1st round) was then between exactly the same people who’d fought last year’s Election run-offs.

AND THE WINNERS OF THE ROUND 2 ELECTION RUN-OFFS ARE:

  • Républicain hold in Belfort against the President’s Party (59% – 41% – turnout 29%)
  • SHOCK HORROR. REPUBLICAIN GAIN IN PONTOISE. PRESIDENT’S PARTY LOSES SEAT. With a measly 19% turnout (1% even lower than last Sunday) the Républicains won the seat back from the President’s Party: 7167 votes to 6762

Yes, despite the presence during the week of Prime Minister Philippe, the voters of Pontoise voted in Les Républicains.

Wauquiez hailed this ‘rejection and severe sanctioning of the Government’s policies … [with] a taxation assault on the middle classes and pensioners, and an unprecedented explosion in immigration and crime’. Hard Left leader Mélenchon pithily summed it up thus: ‘The old Right has beaten the new Right’. And the winning Républicain candidate in Belfort got in with: ‘No. Les Républicains are not dead’

For what it’s worth, BFM (non-stop news TV channel) didn’t feel that the result of this Républicain gain was worth even mentioning in their 23:00 news: trial of the suspected 13/11 terrorist in Belgium/snow coming/floods going/the President’s prospective visit to Corsica. All there, but no boring old bye-elections. Real night-owls benefited from a quick reference to the Pontoise result at 23:45.

La grogne monte (Growing discontent … as lazy sub-editors regurgitate that stale cliché)

  • Prison officers’ grogne (Le Croix): most serious industrial action for over 25 years called for (and won) extra money/resources/protection – at the ‘height’ of the dispute over two-thirds of France’s substantially overcrowded prisons were affected by the action (last November, in France, more than 69,000 prisoners occupied 59,000 places … England & Wales, by comparison, had 85,000 prisoners for 76,000 places. **
  • Care home workers’ and care at home workers’ grogne (Ouest France): first-ever national industrial action for better pay, more resources and staff for dependent elderly people in need of care
  • Paris Bike Hirers’ grogne (Les Echos): Paris Mairie screwed up its change of concessionaire and lots of people in lots of parts Paris can’t hire bikes
  • Drivers’/bikers’ grogne (Le Figaro): With proposals to reduce the speed limit from 90kph to 80kph, thousands of angry folk (especially in rural/peri-urban areas who already aren’t this Government’s greatest fans) are furious that the Government wants to save lives at the expense of drivers’ inalienable freedom to speed 10 kilometres per hour faster
  • Students’/Lycéens’ grogne (Le Monde): ideas about reforming University selection and the Bac have produced national demonstrations against changes to the right of anyone with their school-leaving exam to go and study at their University of choice … plus proposed upheaval of the Bac exam, to include continuous assessment
  • Hospital’s grogne (Le Point): Minister of Health, Agnes Buzyn – one of the Government’s civil society appointees to ministerial office, after a life spent in academe/hospitals – has been singled out for having failed, early enough, to identify growing health/care service discontent; she’s about to unveil her plan of action in the face of #BalanceTon Hosto (#DenounceYourHospital)
  • Even Dunkirk’s fire officers are pissed off and grogning (Le Phare dunquerquois)
  • And don’t forget the fed-up users of cross-Paris fast rail Line A (Le Parisien)
  • And, lastly for now, Amazon’s workers too … but then bears, woods, Popes and Catholics come to mind (LSA Conso)

HOWEVER no grogne (yet) reported about the Coming Public Sector Job Losses

Give them just a little more time and those headlines will surely grow.

One of Candidate Macron’s main pledges was for a major reduction in the number of people working in the public sector. That electoral pitch wasn’t nearly as loonily dramatic (and unbelieveable) as conservative Républicain Fillon’s promise to cut 500,000 fonctionnaires – nearly 10% of France’s public sector workforce. Macron’s programme called for a reduction of 120,000 jobs in the public sector over his 5 year term.

This week, the Government presented its job-cutting programme (part of its public service transformation programme) – the curiously-named Action Publique 2022. Discussions will soon begin with trades unions on getting rid of 120,000 public service jobs. Prime Minister Philippe launched the programme – before heading to the Pontoise bye-election to support their candidate. Nice sense of timing. The Government’s idea is, initially, to seek voluntary redundancies (better than compulsory for sure), promising re-training and help finding private sector jobs. To ‘balance’ this Macronite generosity there will be pay rises on merit and not just yearly incremental increases.

‘The Government appears to have decided everything even before it begins its consultation [with the trades unions]’ opined Le Monde‘s critical editorial.

The initial (inevitable) trades union response to this ‘unprecedented’ attempt to seek multiple job transfers out of the public sector was to describe the plans as

  • an ‘attack’ (Communist CGT union)
  • ‘blowing up the public sector’ (largely public sector umbrella union Solidaires)
  • ‘total madness’ (Communist Party) ‘we need more people working in the public sector’ (Socialist Party) ‘unacceptable’ (France Unbowed) – all demanded more, not less, people in hospitals, care homes and prisons. The centre-right Républicains predictably chipped in with ‘far too few job losses to reduce public expenditure’.

The smack of Macron’s firm Government on public service will also aim for a more ‘flexible’ public sector to produce

  • Quality Service Ratings’ by the end of 2018 for schools/courts/hospitals/social security offices … anywhere there’s an interface with the public, and
  • every ‘administrative’ procedure being available online by 2022
  • considerably increase the number of public sector employees who are

Oh to be in England France now that traditional Conservative means of bringing the public sector to its knees modern Third Way means of accelerating the transformation of public service are there.

The Great Nutella and Pampers Wars (January 2018)

No more will Murder on the Shopfloor be caused by Intermarché. The boss of the Intermarché supermarkets, in today’s Journal de Dimanche (in French), assured the world that super-promotions like the sale of 950g Nutella pots at €1.41 instead of €4.70 (with similar 70% discounts on Pampers nappies) was so last week.

He piously declared [after being summoned for a knuckle-rapping by Minister of the Economy, Le Maire, and getting Intermarché front-page worldwide (un?)welcome publicity] Intermarché’s wish to see the Government’s proposals intended to produce a better balance between producers’ and sellers’ interests. But (he assured grasping consumers) there’ll still be great prices at his stores. Well, that’s a relief.

Afore he shuffles permanently off this blog (at long last) 

Good to see that Mr F Fillon (erstwhile habitué of this parish’s blog, having previously been Sarkozy’s PM for 5 years and the Républicains’ Presidential candidate last year) has been awarded the 2017 Grand Prix for Lying Politician (in French). Difficult to think of a more deserving winner in any year: Fillon’s constant Services To Untruthfulness were a privilege to behold and report.

Round round get around, Rihanna gets around

PS *In the opening paragraph of this post, I originally (questionably? Discuss) used the word ‘disinterested’ … I actually meant (and accordingly, for the avoidance of doubt, changed the text to read) ‘uninterested’

** This post has been corrrected (08.02.18) to delete an incorrect statement that the British were the champions of European prison overcrowding. The full facts are set out in a comment below

2 thoughts on “Here Beginneth Year 2: The Return of The Right.

  1. Morning! Sorry to be nit picking but your comment about the Brits being close to being European champions in prison overcrowding is mathematically incorrect, as they lag behind the French in this category. If the French have ‘more than’ 69000 prisoners in 59000 places they are at at least 117% of capacity, and are cramming an extra 10000 prisoners into a lower number of prison places. Whereas the Brits with 85000 prisoners for 76000 places are ‘only’ at 112% of capacity and 9000 ‘excess’ prisoners. Neither situation is glorious of course.
    In addition, according to a Council of Europe press release DC031(2017), a number of other European countries are well ahead of the UK, including Spain (the true European champions) at 133%, Hungary 129%, Belgium 127% and Portugal 113%.

    As for ‘Nutellagate’ there is a French law prohibiting selling a product below cost price without prefectoral authorisation. So if Intermarché can sell Nutella and Pampers at a 70% discount, it gives some insight into their absolute profit margins on these products.

    Like

  2. Apologies. You’re quite correct. My maths is rubbish. Correction duly made.

    Regarding Nutella/Pampers, the boss of Intermarché seems to have been hinting in his
    JDD interview that there can always be specially reduced prices from suppliers for ‘special’ promotions.

    Like

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