As France says ‘Non’ to Sarkozy, what does this mean for the Euro?
Professor Robert Tombs
Friday 29th April 2012: By Robert Tombs, Professor of French History at Cambridge University. Politeia has just published Prof Tombs‘ ‘Lessons from History’ pamphlet.
The result of the first round of the French elections shows alarming oddities in French politics today. Despite the huge issues faced by France, personality has counted: M. Sarkozy is not liked.
He was elected despite this to do something decisive – be ‘the French Thatcher’. He has not been. This has allowed attention to focus less on what he has done, than on what he is. He is generally regarded as not having the dignity required of a leader of France.
Many young voters supported candidates of the extreme right and left, who reject the politicians of Paris and Brussels, and the world economic system. To call this populism for once seems justified: ‘stop the world, I want to get off’. The leading candidate is populist too: France has been postponing difficult decisions for a perilously long time, and M. Hollande’s message is to postpone them some more.
Finally, this vote confirms the dramatic rise of euroscepticism. But this variety is the opposite of that in England: it is against ‘l’Europe libéral’ – free markets, competition, the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ model, and now the German model too. Marine Le Pen wants to leave the euro; François Hollande opposes the course set by Germany. We are in for a serious tiff between the ‘Franco-German couple’, and a Eurozone crisis precipitated by France.
*Robert Tombs is author of Politeia’s Lessons from History: Freedom, Aspiration and the New Curriculum.