Clowns & Jokers

Stuck in the middle.... Left, right, centre. It's a mess out there.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I do partly admire Segelene Royal, France’s socialist presidential candidate. It can’t be easy to stand as a female politician in France.

The self declared ‘Land of Liberty’ hasn’t made it easy for women in terms of participation in the political landscape. The break ('rupture' as they say) with the ancien regime brought in constitutional reforms and individual rights of 'liberty equality fraternity' but these didnt really extend to women. French women have had to wait longer than their English counterparts for the right to vote (1944), divorce, gain access to contraception and abortion...

Dealing with France's old dragons in the socialist party and competing for the chance to stand as the first ever female presidential candidate, means challenging old style chauvinism. France's only female prime minister, Édith Cresson, was its most unpopular and had to deal with all sorts of nasty remarks about how she came to be in power mostly alleging she slept her way to the top. (I met her once. She reminded me of Edwina Curry!).

This hilarious picture speaks volumes with respect to Segelene’s position. In an apparently dull live TV debate her own socialist party adversary with whom she is pictured, described her speech as ‘que des conneries’ (a load of shit). To the point in France aren’t they?! I cant help wondering if that is less about her Cameron style approach to the position (where she isn’t being exactly forthcoming in laying out her policies) and more about the fact that they resent her standing.

Both Sarkozy and Royal have been referring to a political (badly needed) ‘rupture’ (break with the past) for France. In Sarkozy's case it centres around a break with the old style socialism that weakens France’s employment system amongst other things. Aimed at the young his is a rallying call on the value of work and need for progress.

For Royal it literally is about breaking with the tradition of a male dominated political environment. As such she can afford, in appealing to women as she does, to rely on style over substance and talk in vagueries. In France she is judged, like all women, on her appearance first and is probably milking that for all its worth. The whole style thing works well in a modern age of glamourous TV politics and I think that is what her colleagues resent most.

At some point, like Cameron, she will actually have to state her aims. She doesn’t appear to be in a hurry. Sarkozy is the one who sets the pace and takes the flack. His aggressive position with regards to the rioting in the banlieues, where job prospects are such that they’ve nothing better to do than cosy up to the islamists, his open move to court Bush and the anglo saxon economic model hasn’t been all that well received recently (by some) and plays to her advantage. In spite of all that though, promisingly, Sarkozy, my fav, maintains a strong lead in the polls. He’s a darn sight more interesting than the intensely irritating Cameron. In fact even Royal’s lack of substance is more interesting and post worthy than Cameron’s, god help us.


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