So, excuse the awful French pun, but « ça va mal en France. » – Things are bad.
It’s official. France is at war, so, « Keep calm and carry on. » – which is exactly what we are doing. It’s bad business as usual at home, whilst a couple of thousand French soldiers are fighting a terrorist army in Mali. Wars apart though, it is the weather that is hogging the headlines today ad two thirds of France is covered in thick snow.
Before I start on Mali though, let’s take a look at things on the « home front. »
Let’s start with Renault
Last week, Renault announced it was all set to shed 7500 jobs in its French plants, though a company spokesman said that the losses would be achieved through « natural wastage » – Not a good term for Renault to use, especially after the spate of suicides in its Paris R&D centre back in 2010 /11. According to Arnaud Montebourg though – our « Ministre du Redressement Productif » (or Minister for Productive Rectification – as translated by Google), the job losses aren’t so bad, because Renault isn’t actually shutting any plants. For all those remaining Renault workers, who cannot be naturally wasted away, there will be a longer working week, enhanced mobility and lower wages. Renault would like to align French wages with those they pay their Spanish workers. So, basically a job with Renault means going to work where the work is, for longer hours and for less money BUT you keep your job.
The Renault job losses follow the anouncement last year by Peugeot/Citroen, that they were shutting their production plant in Aulnay near Paris, with the loss of 2500 jobs, and that they were all set to shed 10% of their total French workforce.
It is all basically down to one thing. The French are not buying French cars. Years ago, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen could put a turd on wheels, and people would still buy it because it was French. No matter the poor build quality, the unreliability, and the lousy service at local dealerships, French car-buyers were basicaly a patriotic lot. Not any more. One of the best selling cars in France is the Toyota Yaris – made by Toyota in France.
On the high street, business is also bad. A few days ago, the Virgin group announced the closure of all its 26 French stores, with a loss of 1000 Jobs. No one is buying Cds or DVDs anymore. We’re all downloading. Mind you, the Virgin business strategy was about as wonky as bent vinyl. Rather than shutting down a few selected stores and re-investing in others, Virgin preferred to plough most of its money into its flagship store on the Champs Elysées in Paris, where rents are a staggering 18,000 Euros per square metre. The efforts to keep the store open finally bankrupted the group.
Turning to crime
French Interior Minister,Emmanuel Vals was on our screens this week , evealing the crime figures for 2012. Apart from Financial crime, which is down by 1.5%, all other crime is on the increase. Violent crime up by 3.5%. Burglary up by 5.8% and a staggering 16% rise in the murder rate – but that probably has a lot to do with the gang war that has been raging on the streets of Marseilles for over a year. Monsieur Vals that it was bad news, but some of the increase was in part due to the way that the figures were collected.
Let’s all get Married
Now, when all is going badly, it’s a good time for a « smokescreen policy » and we have one at the moment – Same Sex Marriage – though opponents call iy Gay Marriage and supporters call it « marriage for all ». So, you’ve got the idea. If same sex couples are allowed to marry, then marriage will be open to all, thus reinforcing the egalitarian nature of our Republic. (Remember the old Republican tryptic – Equality, Liberty and Fraternity) which in real terms often means « all for one or nothing for anyone.) Why should,only men and women be allowed to marry ? Why can’t blokes marry blokes and so on.
On January 13th last, some 800,000 anti « gay » marriage protesters thronged the streets of Paris. Well, there were 800,000 according to the organisers and only 300,000 according to the police. You can therefore probably reckon that there were half a million people. The next day, French President François Hollande chose to « ignore » the démonstration and pursue his «universal marriage » policy. Starnge behaviour in a country where présidents traditionally bow to street protest. From Mitterrand to Chirac, présidents and Prime Ministers alike have « withdrawn » reforms under pressure from the street. You can’t just ignore half a million people.
Mr Hollande has also refused a national referendum on the matter. The constitution allows referenda on social reforms. According to Mr Hollande, this is not a social, but rather a sociétal question, and therefore there is no need for a referendum. Perhaps Mr Hollande is just afraid he might lose when people use the referendum more as a popular vote on the président rather than the issue at hand.Let’s face it, Mr Hollande is way down in the polls At the end of 2012 he had a 35% popularity rating, but then came a war – or at least Mr Hollande launched a war.
Oh What a Lovely War
It’s a bit like the Falklands. President François Hollande (like wot Maggie did) has got himself a war in a place that no one has ever heard of.
Memories of April 1982, when we all went running for our maps just to check that the « Argies » hadn’t invaded some far flung corner of the British isles. « The Falkands ???? That’s near the Orkneys, innit ???? »
It was the same with Mali. Though thanks to the lights of the media, we now know that Mali is in the middle of nowhere ; more or less in the middle of Africa. You’ve guessed it. Mali is mostly sand – according to one popular « général knowledge » website 83% of Mali is just one big beach.
Time to cook dinner, so back to Mali in another post in the near future
To be continued …