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There's a pile of politics in today's entry.
Click here for a succint summary.

 

What the hell Macron?

On Sunday, France (along with numerous other countries) went to the polls to elect the country's MEPs. The national front (far right) gained something like 32% of the vote, over twice Macron's 15%, with the Socialists just behind at 14%.

At home, Macron has 169 MPs against the far right's 88.

In response to such a big loss, Macron decided to call a snap election. Apparently he said that he trusted the people to do the right thing for the good of the country (meaning not elect the far right)... only he said that on the evening of the day that loads of people voted for the far right.

The far right, formerly the National Front now refer to themselves as the Rassemblement National. It's still being headed by Marine Le Pen, having pushed her rather unpleasant father out of the picture and more recently brought in a younger social-media-savvy person to act as their spokesman.

Speaking to various people at work, the opinions fall broadly into two camps:

  • Macron is crazy / He has lost the plot / This is going to end badly.
And:
  • What the RN say makes sense / They have good ideas / It's time for a change as the main political parties are no use any more.
When I pointed out to one woman that despite having good ideas, it's still the far right. She replied to say that maybe that was an outdated way of thinking and the newer generation isn't like the far right of old.

My personal opinion is that no matter how nice and cuddly they appear, they'll be goosestepping the moment they get into power. The only thing that has really changed about the National Front / Rassemblement National is they are no longer banging on about Frexit, having seen what a complete balls-up Brexit has turned into. Even that Dutch nutter with hair worse than mine has given up on the idea of Nexit. So, I guess, Europe can thank the UK for something. ☺

Worse is that the people who seemed to approve of the national front running the country were regular people who feel let down and left behind by the normal parties. They weren't racist, bigots, or seemingly unpleasant people. Just regular people utterly disillusioned with how things are going.
Macron, like Sunak, may have lots of money and the ability to woo and support the banks... but the little people - who have a vote - don't give a crap about any of that when the price of energy/fuel/food has shot through the roof but their pitiful wage is increasingly pitiful and barely moving. It's called "purchasing power" and it's serious business in France. In 2023, the Insee says that household expenses went up 0.8%, though I would argue that figure given the inflamatory rises in electricity - my average bill is ~€95 rather than the historical ~€65 so it has gone up by about half these past couple of years and I don't use much electricity) while purchasing power also rose 0.8% in 2023; well, the two cancel out to be a big fat zero.
I've been looking at the prices of things that I buy and I think it's safe to say that following Covid/Ukraine, food prices have gone up by around 25% (cat food also!), electricity has gone up around 45%. So that 0.8% is a joke.
By contrast, minimum wage, which was €1,539.42 in January 2020 and is currently €1,766.92 (brut monthly) has only gone up 14.778%, far less than the price rises of everything.
Yes, we're all being paid more than pre-Covid, but everything costs so much more these days. In relative terms, I think we may well be worse off now.

Macron says that it's going to be a busy three weeks to convince the French that his group know what is necessary to be voted for, and to keep the far right out of power.

Three weeks to convince? How about the push to add two years to the retirement age? That, plus the way it was pushed through, annoyed everybody, something like 70% of the electorate despise Macron over that. He said that it had to be done, but maybe there'd be money if he hadn't slashed corporate taxes and done away with wealth tax, meaning that "the people" have to pay more for less. His style of leadership is less like a President and more like a self-centred King handing down diktats, and like the British Tories, he is known as the "President of the rich".

Here in France, there is a very simple belief that is sacrosanct. Contributions into the social system are fairly high, but people pay because they know the social system will look after them in their later years. The current President seems to be intent on trying to dismantle fundamental parts of this social system. He's had seven-odd years to show his colours and what he's about, so the next three weeks are unlikely to sway many.

Many people don't feel that Macron even has a valid mandate for his actions. He was voted as President in the second round because his opponent was Le Pen (the far right), and they were voting for him to keep her out; in other words he was the least awful option but not necessarily the one that people actually wanted.
Furthermore, to widespread disapproval, the change in retirement age was pushed through using the infamous article 49.3 which allows the executive to enact laws without a parliamentary vote. This was instituted as a part of the (current) Fifth Republic after some sort of mess with the Fourth; and Macron's government has used this article extensively rather than putting things to the parliament like, you know, would be expected in a democratic setting.

So Macron is going to have to find a way to try to convince the voters that he isn't a neoliberal authoritarian jerk that doesn't give a crap what the people think or want, in fact sometimes it seems as if he actually despises the French populace (or, at least, those without lots of money).
Sound familiar?

 

Now let's take a look at the 22 point plan put forth by the RN here in France. What would people be voting for if they voted for the far right? Culled from their website, it boils down to:

  1. Stop uncontrolled immigration (end settlement immigration and family reunion), only process asylum applications abroad, reserve social assistance for French people and make access to benefits conditional on 5 years of work in France, ensure national priority for housing and employment, eliminate the residency permit for a foreigner who has not worked for a year, expel illegal immigrants and foreign criminals, eliminate the right of soil and limit access to nationality on criteria of merit and assimilation).
  2. Eradicate Islamic ideologies and all of their networks from the national territory.
  3. Make security everywhere and for everyone a priority (in other words, a judicial system that works and doesn't hand out wrist slaps).
  4. Lower VAT from 20% to 5.5% on energy products (gas, fuel, electricity...) and for them to be counted as essential goods.
  5. Allow companies to increase wages by 10% (up to 3× minimum) by exempting this increase from employer contributions.
  6. Renationalise motorways and reduce tolls by 15%; privatise public broadcasting to eliminate the €138 fee (haven't they already done away with the TV licence?).
  7. Encourage young people's projects and getting them into working life (including exempting the under-30s from income tax so they can stay in France and start their families here).
  8. Support French families (double support for single mothers, remove taxes for direct inheritance for low/middle income families, exempt donations from parents/grantparents to children/grandchildren up to €100,000 per child every ten years).
  9. Guarantee a peaceful retirement for seniors (raise the minimum pension to €1,000 per month, people who started work at 20 and have worked for 40 years can retire at 60, greatly increase medical staff at nursing homes).
  10. Ensure the rights of people with disabilities, and mandate disabled access everywhere.
  11. Establish a citizen initiative referendum and implement proportional representation.
  12. Ensure energy independence to lower the bill (return to households the €5B subsidies paid to wind turbines, stop wind projects and slowly dismantle existing installations, relaunch nuclear and hydroelectric, exit the European electricity market to obtain decent prices).
  13. Defend farmers and provide quality food for all (prices that respect the work of farmers, the end to abusive practices of mass distribution, ban all imports that don't meet French production standards, canteens must use 80% French products, generalise labelling on the origin and quality of food products).
  14. Launch an emergency health support plan of €20B (stop closing hospital beds, raise worker salaries in line with the work they do, invest in technology and bring drug manufacture back to France, more prevention (in particular restart school medical visits)).
  15. Restore the education system (put teaching of French/maths/history back at the heart of schooling, raise teacher salaries and overhaul their training, introduce a school uniform, penalise absences, reduce class sizes).
  16. Something to do with changing taxes to more heavily tax financial speculation (I think...it's a bit complicated).
  17. Promote access to housing for French people (build 100,000 social housing units per year, start a plan to rehabilitate old housing via various forms of aid, create a rent guarantee fund to protect owners).
  18. Establish economic patriotism (give priority to SMEs for public contracts, make subsidies conditional on regional job creation, eliminate the Corporate Property Contribution that harms SMEs, review free trade agreements which do not respect France's interests).
  19. Create a sovereign French fund to increase the remuneration of French savings and direct them towards strategic sectors/innovation (you might have noticed me previously pointing out that most savings plans are offering an appalling interest rate even when the Eurozone interest rates shot up along with the inflation).
  20. Increase the defence budget to €55B by 2027.
  21. Create a ministry of state for the sea and for overseas territories.
  22. Create a ministry for the fight against fraud (broad spectrum: tax frauds, benefits fraud, fraudulent imports, agreements, etc).

While there is the expected anti-foreigner discrimination and strongly anti-Islamic stuff, the rest of the ideas do, actually, have merit.
Granted, I'm not entirely sure how this stuff will be funded, but I can see the appeal of promoting French things for French people and trying to fix many things (education, medical, housing, etc) that people believe have been forgotten about for far too long.
That being said, the Raving Loonies had good ideas too, some of which were actually made real, but would you have wanted Screaming Lord Sutch as PM?

Which leads to the obvious question - what are the mainstream parties pledging in response to this?

When Macron has gone, he is likely to be remembered as that arrogant twat that raised the pension age especially by using article 49.3 to push it through rather than letting the elected representatives actually vote on it.

 

Now, I cannot help but think that there are worrying things on the horizon, suffice to say that whatever Macron is gambling, it's a big risk and could well blow up in his face. After all, he's far from popular... and as distasteful as it may be to admit, you can see why the national front's proposal appeals. More bonuses for the bankers? More tax breaks for the rich? More jobs lost to outsourcing? Well, hang on, what about the rest of us? The far right is specifically targetting the regular Joe Pierre, because the filthy rich fatcats are vastly outnumbered by minimum wage employees...who have a vote, and can vote for change.

The left won't make much showing here. While there is, arguably, more support for the left in France than the right, the various leftist parties are too busy squabbling over stupid little trivia to be of any use.
Meanwhile, it was announced today that Les Républicains (the French equivalent of the Conservatives) want to join forces with Rassemblement National. In other words, to make a strong party on the right, against Macron who everybody hates, and loads of bickering idiots on the left.

 

My prediction is that Macron will have screwed this up about as much as Sunak's snap election, and the far right will make enough gains in the legislature that Macron will lose his majority and will spend the remaining years of his presidency impotent and hobbled. Furthermore, with a majority, the RN will expect one of them to be named Prime Minister. This is usually a person the President appoints, but if he doesn't have a majority then his hand can be forced. It's worth noting that a lot of things fall into the remit of regular government and not the President - pensions, benefits, employment, law and order, etc. It'll be impossible for the President to push anything through with a France-centric government hostile to both him and the EU. A lot of things could change and he'd be unable to have much say in the matter. The President usually deals with 'foreign' things and leaves 'home' things to the Prime Minister, but his influence only works if they're both on the same side.

It'll be fireworks, but not the pretty sort.

 

Colrectal cancer test

So I sent my little poop sample off on the 22nd of March, by handing it directly to the postal worker... and it was somehow "lost in the post".

On the 21st of April, after doing the fibre signup, I raced (as much as you can "race" in a car that runs at 45kph) up to the town where I work to drop a replacement poop sample into the letterbox at the post office (it had gone noon so was closed when I got there) and then did a long journey in traffic (a more major road) for the long distance to the place where my car is serviced).

Today I received a letter in the post informing me that my sample wasn't able to make it to a laboratory within the six days maximum required for a reliable test. They will apparently be sending out a replacement test kit so I can try again.

I wonder how many times I'll need to do this before there's a result? Hehe, it'll probably be something like "inconclusive", won't it?

 

Fighting Farage

While Farage was on the campaign trail earlier today, somebody lobbed things at him. Farage, predictably, said that he would not be bullied by a violent left-wing mob.
The problem is that Farage is the one man who has arguably done more damage to Britain than that spot of bother some three quarters of a century ago. So it's just as possible that the object was thrown by a Tory supporter who is rather displeased at Farage's sudden direct attack on the Tories.

That being said as odious as Farage is, one won't solve the problem by bouncing rocks off of his head. If one such flying object should do him in, the result won't be peace and quiet. No, he'd be turned into some sort of martyr.
It's much better to expose the charlatan for what he is, starting with the fact that he said he would bugger off if Brexit was a disaster. It is, so why is he still here? Also, isn't he supposed to be be trying to get his bestie back in The White House?

That also being said, it'll be an uphill struggle. The rational people already know he's full of crap and the irrational Daily Mail readers simply parrot "Reform for me" like some sort of madness mantra. Trying to explain to them that Farage is a grifter conman will be about as fruitful as trying to explain to them why Brexit would be a bad idea.
But, then, maybe Farage's manifesto (which I haven't read) isn't so different from the Rassemblement National here in France? A nice glossy sheen to the xenophobic racism that actually sounds like plausible ways to try to fix what years of pro-corporate wealthy-friendly misgovernance has done to the country.

The left are in perpetual disarray. The centre has failed. The right has answers. For both our countries, not to mention others in the EU.

In short...

 

tl;dr

We're screwed.

 

 

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C Ferris, 11th June 2024, 22:32
Hmm - back in the 30s a teacher set a exam - The coming Storm -
C Ferris, 12th June 2024, 09:42
What do they do in France with all the Human dung from the cities - put on the field?
C Ferris, 12th June 2024, 09:45
Is there anyway of checking the Validation number before the comment bit?
Rick, 12th June 2024, 11:12
If you get the number wrong, it'll ask you to retry (keeping the comment). 
This is done server side in order to not require any sort of scripting in order to make use of this site.
David Pilling, 12th June 2024, 12:32
I played pooh sticks this year, posted Boxing day, got the result in a couple of weeks - chorus of 'nothing works in the UK'. 
 
The media say Macron has a cunning plan, get the right in power for the next few years where they will get a lot of criticism. 
 
The RN plan looks expensive, not suitable for the EUs third most in debt nation (Italy and Greece have more debt). 
 
I generalise, there is a mix of policies. Directing savings to the national interest, might be the policy of left and right in the UK - howls of protest from economists. It is surprising how much of UK pension investment goes to the USA now, and how little to the UK. Also an example of a policy that would probly not be allowed in the EU (there are others). 
 
"more heavily tax financial speculation" typical lefty policy. 
 
"stop wind projects" Mr Farage would approve. 
 
Colin - you have to train yourself to always copy form contents to the clipboard, Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C before hitting post, because although this form may be well behaved there are plenty that will lose your carefully written text. 
C Ferris, 12th June 2024, 13:50
Dave P - I will give that a try :-) 
 
More Windmills in Cities - they can lsn to the Wump Wump. 
 
Wind pumps pumping water up suterable mountains - to be used to store potential electric. 
 
In the USA - why not use the vast heat around Yellowstone.
Rick, 12th June 2024, 14:24
Colin - Yellowstone doesn't work like that. The area has been off limits since around 1970 when drilling technology became feasible, because people aren't quite sure what happens if you try to punch a hole in a supervolcano, and there's no way back if it gets broken. 
 
David: There's a lot of UK stuff that is sent to the US. Your census, for instance. It probably ought to worry any rational person that it's quite likely that a foreign power knows more about the UK's citizens than the UK government. 
 
His cunning plan is akin to juggling chainsaws.
C Ferris, 12th June 2024, 14:52
Wasn't that just no drilling in the nation parks?
A. Nony. Mouse., 12th June 2024, 15:51
"She replied to say that maybe that was an outdated way of thinking and the newer generation isn't like the far right of old." 
 
People seem to fall for the whole "It won't happen to me. They can't be THAT bad." fallacies which is quite scary really in the face of everything that's going on. Especially when you read the history books or just look across the pond at Trump. 
 
"The left are in perpetual disarray. The centre has failed. The right has answers." 
 
I guess when the only real values you have are about financial gain, power and building up the structures that facilitate that and eroding the ones that hinder it, you're quite happy promising all sorts of cr@p and making deals with anyone who helps you reach those goals. 
 
Whereas if you genuinely want to exercise compassion and maintain integrity, it must be a lot harder to compromise and join with greedy career politicians in the hope of some hypothetical greater good. Yet now Macron expects moderates to join him because far right.
C Ferris, 12th June 2024, 20:09
I wonder how many top MPs put stuff into the Food banks - even it's done by their butlers :-)

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