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Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

April 16, 2007

Coming off fence, causing offence

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Tomorrow is the day I have decided upon. None of the 12 French presidential candidates is shaking in his or her boots, no sleep is being lost and no votes depend upon it.

But I live in France, occupy my corner of an Anglo-French family and pay my taxes here. So I have a civic duty to declare my choice.

Watch this space tomorrow, if you are interested in knowing for whom my inactive votes are being cast this Sunday and at the playoff on May 6.

I had one of those useful opportunities at the weekend to view the issues from the other side of the Channel. The company I kept was intelligent and lively, and everyone knew there was actually an election in progress.

But the only people mentioned by name, without my prompting, were Nicolas Sarkozy and Jean-Marie Le Pen. Very well, someone may also have thrown a Ségolène or a Royal fleetingly into the conversation, but not with such interest or passion that I now remember the detail.

French politics rarely matter much back home, except during those intermittent crises - warfare in the past, agricultural policy now.

We are taught to regard the likes of Jacques Chirac as hate figures. The French, it is said and not only on www.****france.com, are driven by self-interest, arrogance and pride and by nothing else.

But even this is little more than a pantomime sideshow. For we are told by bonker English columnists that what this country really needs is a good walloping. And that only Sarko can administer it, with his pro reform, pro free market, pro Modèle Anglo-Saxon policies taking the role played by the martinets that once hung from hooks in French kitchens.

Those pundits probably do not know how little their views mean to him. But just as surely as Sarko has already watered down his promise to achieve "rupture" with the past and its failures, the truth is that he'll end up being very wary about doing very much at all that would suit the lovely-country-shame-about-the-people mob, the racaille of the English Right.

I did not mean to be so cruel on my confrères. If I use racaille, a contentious word that has brought Sarko much grief since he chose it to describe delinquents on suburban estates, I mean it in its broader sense of "rabble".

Most English language reporters prefer the harsher definition "scum" and may even be right (the only deciding factor, of course, being how the person on the receiving end interprets the word).

But how much interest is there generally in Britain in this political contest? Given that it's been a pretty drab campaign, I suspect that the answer reflects my exchanges when back home: Not Much.

Perhaps things will become more animated once 10 hopefuls have been cast out of the race, leaving us our top two playoff.

The tragedy is that the elimination of the also-rans is pretty certain also to entail the elimination of all the true characters of this campaign.

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