Tuesday 31 March 2015

French voters ring changes and turn right

The perpetual ding-dong of French politics went from ding to dong on Sunday.
One side, the dingers, was cock-a-hoop.

The others, the dongers, swore they would be back next time.

Both the conservative dingers and Socialist dongers agreed on one thing, though. Thank goodness they had once again kept out those nasty upstarts, the clangers of the National Front.
In France, when they ring the changes, it's the same old tune.
At the last lot of elections during the Sarkozy presidency, the map of France turned from blue to pink.
Now the Socialists are in power so the map has gone conservative blue again.
First the towns, then the European constituencies, then the Senate, now the departments. Later this year it will be the regions that change hue.
Every time the winners - dingers or dongers - claim that things will be different. They genuinely rejoice.
But in the end they don't do anything particularly new.
Politics goes on - the same mix of largesse and penny-pinching, tough talk and special pleading, promises, promises, promises.
But the level of public disillusion rises a notch each time. And, as we know, the clangers are the party of disillusion.


These departmental - or county - elections conform perfectly to the pattern of the last 30 years.
The ruling party in Paris - in this case the Socialists - has suffered what the analysts are calling either a "gifle" or a "fessee" (a slap in the face or a smack on the bottom).
Departments that were once seen as bastions of the left have tumbled to the opposition:
  • First there was the Nord, the once industrialised area around Lille
  • Then the rural Correze, President Francois Hollande's personal fiefdom
  • Then the Essonne, in the southern Paris suburbs, home of Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
In the end the Socialists were left with 34 out of the 101 departments, down from 61.
The UMP and its centrist allies went from 40 to 67.

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