Saturday 6 May 2017

Allez La France Again

Five years ago, this post was made. Little has changed.


The French Presidential election is under way and this could be an event of some importance.  For the average UK citizen the workings of French politics are a mystery even greater than their own.  Perhaps it was time to renew my acquaintance with that place at the other end of our local tunnel.

So off we went to London and to the performance of “La Fille du Regiment” at Covent Garden starring Ann Widdecombe doing a fractured French/Franglais/English turn.  The part of La Duchesse de Crackentorp is essentially a pantomime routine but with her experience in the House of Commons she was very much at home.

The opera, a comedy romance with troops was written by Donizetti in 1840 and has been a favourite in the repertoire ever since.  With its combination of satire, fun, and gentle romance it is easy to watch.  Unlike most opera’s there is no body count and an absence of tortured anguish and misery.

There are one or two interesting features.  Designed for a French audience it features the then 21st Regiment of Infantry as a unit that won all its battles.  The regiment certainly had successes, including Moscow at first.  But the Retreat from Moscow in 1812 and its defeat at Waterloo were perhaps best not to mention.

The other is that the toff’s lost out; things were not as they appeared to be and at the end the foot soldiers triumphed in romance to leave us with a happy ending.  But all the signs are that in the French 2012 Presidential Election there will not be a happy ending, whoever wins.

Whilst in the Euro Zone Germany is supposed to be the “strong man”, France has the role of “Strong Woman”, very much a Marianne leading the charge to save the Euro and the zone from financial collapse.  This is arguable.

Those who believe that politics will determine the financial future think that they will.  But there are an increasing number, amongst which are those who believe that economics rules, that do not like the numbers in the French economy or the prospects if the financial and related problems drag out for much longer.

Some extremists argue that it will not be a Spanish debacle that finishes off the Euro, it will be a French crisis and that is a serious possibility.  The French method of running their financial sector, the complicated structures of their banks and state organisations have left them very vulnerable to any major disruption if the crisis amongst the PIIGS worsens.

Added to that the inherent elitism of the French administration at the centre and the way the interests of that group are enmeshed in the way the economy has worked makes it reluctant to either face up to or to implement the radical reordering of both policy, the relationships with Europe and the organisation of the economy.

My own connection with French politics is very slight.  There was a day nearly 40 years ago when we camped at Desvres in the football stadium and went to look at Etaples, visited by Grandfather in 1915 and then to Azincourt (or Agincourt) via Hesdin.

We were taking the D roads back to Desvres when we were pulled over by a couple of large motor cycle police. At first I assumed that the family singing the “Agincourt Carol” in Hesdin might not have been a good idea but the cops took little interest in us.

After a couple of minutes suddenly a cavalcade of police and big black cars came racing by, it was The President heading North by the back road.  As I was being watched by the cops I took off my cap as a gesture of deference and when they moved off they signaled for me to follow.

So for a few minutes on the road to Desvres I could claim to be at the heart of French politics.  But what I wondered might have happened if my car had just broken down and blocked the road?


Time goes by.


  1. "But all the signs are that in the French 2012 Presidential Election there will not be a happy ending, whoever wins."

    And again for 2017, but most elections seem to be like that.

  2. My own connection with French politics is very slight. There was a day nearly 40 years ago when we camped at Desvres in the football stadium

    Virtually a native.