Friday, May 26, 2006

French politics is different

It doesn't seem to take much to bring the French onto the streets in protest but their decision-making processes remain highly centralised and there is little argument about some issues that cause British radicals huge angst. For example, as Mary Ann Sieghart notes in the Times today "the nuclear deterrent is part of [France's national] identity. Even though it is far more expensive than the British one, it remains universally popular". She describes the decision to replace Britain's ageing Trident system as "a bomb ticking under Labour".

Similarly there seems to be virtually no debate in France about nuclear energy which supplies about 75% of their electricity needs. But in Britain it is a cause célèbre for the allegedly radical left. Central concentration of power has also enabled the French to construct an impressive network of high-speed railway lines and motorways without having to go through the rigmarole of local planning processes or public enquiries which bedevil such projects in Britain.

On holiday there in March and April I was impressed by the demonstrations against the relatively mild reforms in their employment laws in the CPE proposals. Even in the little town we spent a Monday night in there were dozens of banner-waving people out on the streets on Tuesday morning. And the other little towns we walked through had evidence of similar demonstrations such as banners discarded on roundabouts. At Annecy our hosts showed us a video of the huge demo which had passed through the streets beneath their apartment. Shades of revolting students in 1968.

The CPE bit the dust but motorway construction continues apace, vive la différence.....


At 02:59, Anonymous Gregg said...

But in Britain [nuclear energy] is a cause célèbre for the allegedly radical left.

It's a long time since anyone alleged Blair was radical, let alone left-wing.


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