by John Lichfield
Friday, 3
December 2021

Could France have its first female president next year?

Valérie Pécresse may pose a bigger threat to Macron than Éric Zemmour

The French centre-Right loves to surprise itself. It also has a history of shooting itself in the foot. 

The main centre-Right party Les Républicains, long the dominant force in the land, risks disintegration if it fails to unite and perform well in April’s presidential election.  

As the LR president Christian Jacob likes to say, the French centre-Right has to learn — unfortunate phrase — to “keep all the frogs in the same wheelbarrow” .

How did 113,000 LR members vote in the first round of the party’s primary yesterday? They jumped four ways, split evenly between four candidates. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Thursday, 25
November 2021

French vaccine rule triggers violent protests in Guadeloupe

Mandatory vaccination for emergency workers has led to island-wide demonstrations

Mainland France has been spared the violent Covid protests seen in some of its neighbouring countries in recent days — but a fragment of France 6,700 kilometres away has been convulsed by six nights of rioting.

Live ammunition has been fired in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, an overseas département (county) which is fully part of France. Shots were also fired at police earlier this week in the neighbouring island of Martinique, also part of France Outremer (Overseas France). 

No one has yet been killed or seriously injured in the riots. The worst of the violence shows some signs of abating but the unrest is far from over. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Friday, 19
November 2021

Brigitte Macron says ‘non merci’ to gender neutral pronouns

Linguists fear 'le wokism' is set to destroy the language of love

Elle hath no fury like a former teacher of French confronted with distortions of the language of Molière.

The teacher in question is France’s première dame, Brigitte Macron.

Madame Macron, a former teacher of French language and literature, makes few public forays into politics or public controversies. She made an exception yesterday to criticise the de-gendering of the French language — or the arrival of “le wokisme” in one of France’s leading dictionaries.

In its online edition, the Robert dictionary has included for the first time the invented pronoun “iel” — a merger of “il”(he) and “elle” (she) for people who do not wish to define, or be defined by, their gender. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 15
November 2021

Will Éric Zemmour’s Bataclan stunt backfire?

The polemicist has been accused of capitalising on the 2015 terror attacks

The French far-Right pundit and likely presidential candidate, Éric Zemmour, offended against good taste and the unwritten rules of political life last week by using the anniversary and site of the Bataclan terrorist attacks in Paris to advance his election campaign.

On Saturday — the sixth anniversary of the Bataclan and other Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris which killed 130 people — Zemmour invited TV cameras to film him outside the concert hall in the French capital where 90 concert-goers were murdered on 13 November 2015.

He accused former President François Hollande of making a “criminal decision” earlier that year to allow Syrian refugees to enter France although he knew that terrorists were hiding among them. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Tuesday, 9
November 2021

The Franco-British fish war is far from over

Reports in the Daily Mail are misleading

Whatever happened to the Franco-British fish war? 

Talks in Paris last week between Lord Frost, the British minister for Brexit, and Clément Beaune, the French minister for Europe ended, according to different sources, with: a) progress b) no progress at all.

The talks are continuing at a lower level this week. As things stand, the French government has suspended its threat to gum up cross-Channel trade.  

Britain and Jersey are still refusing to hand over something like 180 post-Brexit licences to small French boats to fish in inshore waters — about 50% of the licences France says it is entitled to, not 2% as the UK government likes misleadingly to imply. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Thursday, 28
October 2021

The Anglo-French fish war of 2021 has begun

Do not underestimate the level of pettiness we are about to encounter

The great Anglo-French fish war of 2021 has begun.

Two British scallop boats were challenged by the “Gendarmerie Maritime” in the Bay of the Seine on Wednesday morning.

One had no licence for French waters and was forced into Le Havre to face charges. The other refused at first to stop and was charged with trying to evade controls (although it had otherwise done nothing wrong).

In fact, this was probably just a routine check by the French maritime authorities. It has been spun nonetheless by Paris as part of France’s escalation of a bad-tempered and seemingly trivial dispute with the UK over post-Brexit fishing licences. Just today, France’s Europe minister said that the UK only understands the “language of force”. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Thursday, 21
October 2021

Watch out Macron: the Gilet Jaunes are back

It may not be Éric Zemmour that the French president has to worry about

They are back. A handful of them, at any rate.

Small groups of men and women in yellow high-visibility jackets — “gilets jaunes” — stood beside roundabouts on the edge of a score of French towns last Saturday.

They were protesting against a boom in pump prices, which has reached 1.53 for a litre of diesel, a few centimes higher than the last record set three years ago. 

In the autumn of 2018, the high cost of filling up a car helped cause a nationwide revolt by hundreds of thousands of people who had never previously revolted. The original yellow jacket rebellion — rural and outer-suburban, directionless, leaderless and much divided — faded away in the spring of 2019. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Tuesday, 12
October 2021

Macron is swapping arrogance for football

The President thinks sport is the way to reach voters alienated by his aloof style

President Emmanuel Macron, defender of the political centre, will play in the centre of defence this week in a football team including the former Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger.

Macron, 43, hopes to play the full 90 minutes to raise money for a hospital charity — Les Pièces Jaunes (the small change) — headed by his wife, Brigitte.

Surely he will be the first French head of state ever to be seen in shorts and football boots?

The Emperor Napoleon?  Non. Football hadn’t been invented yet. Charles de Gaulle? Unthinkable. Jacques Chirac? He preferred other physical activities.

In fact, Emmanuel Macron is not the first French president to play football while in office. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing turned out in full gear several times when he was in the Elysée Palace between 1974 and 1981. ...  Continue reading