Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for …

Elections, What Elections?

The first round of the Municipal Elections were held yesterday throughout France, and right now no-one’s remotely interested in the results.

With a record abstention rate of 55% (coronavirus and ennui combined for a perfect storm of disinterest in most places), little of substance can be discerned beyond:

  • a near-uniform disaster for President Macron’s LaREM party – one of their most startling results was coming third in Reims with 3.29% of the votes (a humiliating 6th place in France’s second city Marseilles with 7.9%; 7% in Toulon and 6% in Montpellier) – their very modest aim of winning 10,000 of France’s councillors (ie 2%) looks way too ambitious to be capable of realisation
  • rare glints of sunshine for the Incredibly Shrinking Socialist Party – especially an undreamed-of round 1 vote for Mayor Anne Hidalgo in Paris winning a far-higher-than-expected 29% and every likelihood of (surprisingly) holding Paris easily; the Sarkozy-clone Républicain got 23% and the ex-Health Minister parachuted in by Macron to save the day after mucky pictures did for her predecessor got the predicted 18%
  • Le Pen’s ultra-right troops held most towns they’d won in 2014, and are likely winners in Perpignan after polling 36% yesterday
  • the Greens continue to make steady progress – the outgoing Green Mayor of Grenoble got 45% so is a shoo-in for keeping the Mayoralty; they’re also well-placed in the centre-right fiefdom of Bordeaux (36%), leading in 8 of the 9 Lyon arrondissements as well as other major (once-Socialist, but no more) towns like Strasbourg and Besancon
  • the ultra-left remains almost invisible, bar a Communist ray of sunshine for a candidate second behind Prime Minister Philippe in Le Havre [Philippe didn’t stand so as to be Mayor, but to prepare for the day he’s given the Presidential heave-ho; he then either lives out his days running Le Havre, or uses the Mayoralty as a trampoline to enable a leap to the topmost part of the greasy pole], the Communist is ideally placed to win the 2nd round by aggregating every anti-Macron vote
  • and, above all, the ‘centre’-right retains its heavily victorious hand over many large French municipalities

Some winners may have to wait

France has a lot of communes: over 35,000. Over half have fewer than 500 inhabitants.

So some 81% of all France’s Mayors were duly elected in yesterday’s Round 1 votes, by getting more than 50% of votes cast. And just in large villages: the Républicain candidate in Reims got 66% and won on the first round.

But all the talk – insofar as anyone is talking about Municipal Elections – is that next Sunday’s 2nd round must be cancelled. Some say those already elected will retain their seats, others say the the sitting Mayors’ terms will be extended. Le Figaro confidently reports that the first round will be frozen, and only the second round postponed, to 21 June. Seems a bit quick to me.

No man is an island … but the Ile de France may become an island

On Saturday night, Prime Minister Philippe announced the closure of all schools, cafes and restaurants. In its wake came the closure of the ski stations, that midnight.

Presidential sources let it be known that this was the inevitable follow-up to the nation having paid all-too-little attention when President Macron, last Thursday, called for restraint in social contacts.

This morning, France’s Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon, described the coronavirus situation as ‘very worrying’ and ‘deteriorating very fast’, with ‘the number of cases doubling every three days’. The eastern region of Alsace and Greater Paris are both particularly badly hit, with hospitals barely coping.

Salomon went on: ‘Everyone in France must ask themselves every morning: how can I reduce by a third or a quarter the number of people I meet? Remain at home, it’s as simple as that.’ [Anti-Ageist Little Known Fact Note: Salomon said that over half France’s coronavirus patients in intensive care are aged under 60]

Yesterday, a balmy sun-filled Sunday, will have caused Presidential exasperation.

Everyone hot-footed it to the open air. Madrid and Venice were deserted, but France enjoyed a glorious spring day with picnics, parties and people. Reports of what was happening in Paris (pictures from Le Journal de Dimanche) must have brought apoplexy. Paris reacted by closing all their parks. But too late.

Since early evening yesterday, the rumour mill has been in overdrive. Many have serious inside tracks on what’s happening thanks to a friend of a friend who works alongside someone remarkably well-informed.

Rumours of every possible kind have been circulating as to what President Macron will announce on TV tonight.

Hot rumour favourite is that Greater Paris (and eastern France) will be placed under lockdown, with some sort of curfew. People are leaving Paris in numbers, to spread the virus to hitherto less-touched parts of the country. (Health boss Salomon had earlier said ‘The virus isn’t circulating in France, men and women are making it circulate.’)

Fact: This morning, President Macron met Prime Minister Philippe and his senior ministers.

Fact: Governmental spokesperson Ndiaye called the alleged lockdown ‘fake news’. However, she confirmed that Government would take ‘all measures’ to ‘fundamentally modify people’s behaviour.’

Is this the point where it all begins to go a bit Mad Max(ish)?

Something Completely Different – which (today) seems not inappropriate

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Am I the only one entirely unaware that this John Donne ‘poem’ is no poem at all? It wasn’t set out like a ‘poem’ in the original. It’s all part of a much longer piece of prose: Meditation XVII from Donne’s ‘Devotions upon Emergent Occasions’.

The things I’ve learnt writing these posts.

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