Sunday, May 06, 2007

France chooses Sarkozy

Exit polls suggest that Sarkozy will claim the French Presidency. This after a truly monumental election campaign. 85% turn out, the largest since the Second World War. The possibility of riots if Sarkozy wins. A clash over visions for the future of France.

This election matters. Our rather grasping love of disparaging jokes about the French should not be taken too far. It would be a great thing if Sarkozy could create a framework for talent in France to really show itself. This is what the French, with their rejection of Anglo-Saxon liberalism, are missing at the moment.

Martin Newland argues that we should be cautious in pronouncing our liberalism so superior to the French model. The French expats living in London are outnumbered by British migrants to France seeking its lower cost of living and superb healthcare and transport systems. He argues that Britain's "pleasures are far more accessible to the super rich and tax-favoured non-domiciled billionaires". Of course, there are things we can learn from France, its less socialised healthcare system would be an improvement on the NHS. However, his main case that there is a more just outcome under the French economic order is undermined by the evidence he cites.

As he notes the French migrants to Britain are largely young graduates seeking work. The upwardly mobile strivers. The other group in France that really suffers is the young, non-graduate population of La Zone. This group is hidden away in the banlieues and faces chronic hopelessness. Neither group can find employment in the French economic system which makes new hires rare thanks to the legal obstacles to firing people and shuts those with few skills out of the workforce through high non-wage labour costs. Those who migrate to France, on the other hand, are older, middle class people who retire to France to spend money they have already earned. Those in France who defend the system already have well-paid and legally secure jobs, often in the public sector.

It is the Anglo-Saxon system that gives hope and employment to the worse off, those who wish to strive and seek to improve their own condition. Hopefully Sarkozy can create a France that gives strivers a chance to shine.

No comments: