Monday 24th April
The first round of the French Presidential elections has thrown up a quite indecisive result. Both the main parties have failed to achieve 30% of the vote, and the National Front has achieved 18%. But if you look a bit closer it is part of a trend that may be seen here in England too. At out last election neither Labour nor the Conservatives did well at all, achieving not much more than in France; and Ukip, which used to be considered a joke is slowly gaining ground, as are the regional Nationalist parties too. For years in Europe fairly Centrist parties have ruled, there being little difference between Centre Left and Centre Right, and clearly a lot of people are unhappy with the result. Of course with the second round eliminating all except the top two, we can expect business as usual to be resumed soon, but we would ignore at our peril this groundswell of dissatisfaction with the established order of things. Neither Sarkozy nor Hollande can be pleased with getting less than 30% of the votes, hardly a ringing endorsement of their ideas. And it was a big turnout at 80%, so one cannot argue that their poor showing was down to apathy of the electorate. Is it maybe more down to a general unhappiness with the continuing decline of the economy, and no real signs of any way out of it either, the current medicine isn’t working but nobody seems to have a convincing alternative either. And I worry that much the same thing is happening in Britain, with no clear distinction and direction from any of the top three parties. Everyone at first thought the Lib-Dems might make a difference, but they have been such a disappointment that they may have blown their chances for a generation. What everyone is looking for is somebody with some new ideas, for some enthusiasm, for some hope for the future. So if we aren’t careful what is happening in France may well be an augury for us too.