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12 February 2007 Blog Home : February 2007 : Permalink

Votez Gauche Pour Se Bais(s)er

So the latter day Jeanne d'Arc, Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal, has spoken and told us her 100 point manifesto. But you know there is a teeny problem with it when even the BBC's analysis paints it as

...an unmistakeably left-wing document, even by French standards, and certainly a million miles from anything under consideration in Britain or most other European countries[.]

and concludes

In her speech on Sunday she pressed all the right buttons, and the euphoric response of the crowd shows that there is a yearning among many in France, who want desperately to believe that they have found their saviour.

But in the coming days, critical eyes will be passed over her 100-point plan, and the calculators will start to tot up the cost.

Some are bound to ask: where was the unifying vision behind her programme? Was it really any more than a bewildering list of new hand-outs? Is a reworked Socialist manifesto all we get after three months of "consultations"?

For those of us who are not so wedded to the big-state socialist worldview the question that the BBC mentions "what will it cost?" quickly shifts to the obvious corrollory "who's going to pay?" and, as Charles Bremner points out on his Timescorrespondents blog, all her claims of being a new voice in Socialist politics are less that accurate:

Ségolène Royal has at last filled in the blanks of the New France that she will create if elected president in May. Under her leadership, we learn, France will finally enter the radiant future, as imagined by its Socialist visionaries since, well...about 1880.

Mr Bremner then hits on the point that concerned me too:

There is a tiny problem. Royal presented her list of 100 pledges to make everyone -- except the capitalists -- richer, happier and healthier, without any suggestion of how she will pay for it.

Jacques Chirac, a Gaullist, did the same to win election in 1995, but making wild uncosted promises is a French Socialist speciality. François Mitterrand, Royal's first employer, her model and the only other Socialist president, painted a similar utopian vision before his election in 1981. It never materialised as France suffered currency devaluation, stagnation and began two decades of chronic high unemployment.      

Royal's aides have been explaining today that economic growth would generate the wealth to finance the manna that will rain down on France. This is supposed to come from her state-run programmes to pick industrial champions and generous finance for innovation and research. Britain's Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was convinced this approach would work when he won power in 1964. It didn't. Royal's evasion of reality was attacked today even by the Communist Party. Marie-George Buffet, the party chief and candidate herself, noted that "Mme Royal failed to explain how she would finance her programme."

You know there is a problem when even the communiusts say you can't afford your policies...

I think the problem here is actually that none of this is actually new. It is all very reminiscent of Gerhard Schröder's first campaign in Germany where he promised a new way but ended up implementing a classic policy of raising taxes, increasing regulations (e.g. concerning rubbish) and generally trampling all over any shoots of entrepreneurship that were present. If Ségo gets elected and gets a socialist/left wing majority in parliament (which she may well not) we can expect a country where the red tape grows but the economy shrinks. Were I Sarkozy I'd be pointing out to all and sundry that Ségo's policies were nto new but have in fact been tried before in England, Germany and France and have to one degree or another made each country poorer as a result. This is not a vote winner except amongst the wishful thinkers and collpase of communism deniers. Unfortunately the French have a large group of such deluded souls so the fact that her proposals would be a disaster does not make her unelectable.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin