In my view, however, Hollande faces an even bigger challenge. On the night of his victory, Hollande boldly announced that "France has chosen change." Putting aside the peculiarities of a logic which allows just over 50 per cent of the vote to be transposed into the general will, it is far from clear that this is the case. If Hollande's electorate was largely Parisian and urban, it was also drawn mostly from public sector workers. These people did not vote for change but for the preservation of their pensions and their employment rights. Hollande likewise received strong support from young people. A recent opinion poll in Le Monde revealed that 73 per cent of the French population aged between 15 and 30 would work for the state if they had the choice. Fifty-nine per cent of these people gave security of employment as their reason. Serving the public came way down the list. We also know that 61 per cent of those who voted against ratification of the European constitution in 2005 voted for Hollande, and that these same voters are largely hostile to the globalising forces that the French call "neoliberalism" and the Anglophone world calls laissez-faire. Just about the only electoral statistic that supports Hollande's description of his victory is that 79 per cent of practising Catholics voted for Sarkozy.
So can we expect the rich and the talented of France to be drawing down the blinds as they pack their bags and take the Eurostar to London? Hollande thinks not, and he has done much to try to reassure the business and banking worlds. "I want justice and not revenge," he recently commented in an interview in Le Nouvel Observateur. And here we need to understand something of the history of the French Left. Ever since Edouard Herriot and the so-called Cartel de Gauche resigned from government in the 1920s, the Left in France has been obsessed by the power of what Herriot described as the "mur d'argent". The suspicion that the world of finance would do everything it could to bring down the Left was only confirmed ten years later when the Popular Front government headed by Léon Blum was forced to devalue the franc by 30 per cent. Reforms came to an end and soon Blum was gone. The arrival of François Mitterrand at the Elysée Palace in 1981 proved to be no happier an experience. Not surprisingly the markets reacted badly to attempts to nationalise virtually every major French company. Within two years all plans to break with capitalism had been abandoned.
When Hollande speaks of the financial world as his adversary therefore, he is falling back upon a long tradition of socialist rhetoric. We might wonder about the value of such language, as also we might question the wisdom of the policies Hollande proposes to pursue, but we should not be misled into thinking that there is necessarily much substance behind the rhetoric. The chances are that the new government will not balance the budget and that taxation will increase. Unemployment will not come down much and predictions for growth will turn out to be over-optimistic. But I doubt that things will go very badly wrong. In France they rarely do. Greece and Spain, as we have already seen, are a different matter, and it will be interesting to see how Hollande responds to the next stage of the ongoing euro crisis. At this point the French might well begin to regret that they said goodbye to Monsieur Sarkozy.
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