Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Is Facebook Assisting the Sarkozy Campaign?

Frédéric Martel presents evidence that it is. The Elysée denies the allegations.

"There are no more Communists in France"

So says François Hollande. This has riled up the rump of party faithful, but few would deny the truth of the observation. More interesting is Hollande's praise of Tony Blair, which The Guardian, somewhat excessively, describes as "lavish":
But Hollande's lavish praise of Tony Blair was revealing about his own political orientation and his potential style of running France. For years, Blair, New Labour and the third way were heresy to most French Socialists. Hollande said Blair was pleasant "and so intelligent he didn't need to be arrogant". He added: "The first lesson to take from Blair is how long he lasted ... Second, he was able, after a long period of Thatcherism, to reinstate education, health and the public sector ... Then he succumbed to the dominant idea that the markets could regulate themselves and the notion that the markets and [economic] liberalism in themselves could be a factor for growth ... We saw the consequences."

In fact, as you can see, his praise of Blair is mixed and demonstrates good political sense. It's important for a party to do what it takes to remain in power if it wants to accomplish anything, and he praises Blair mainly for his mastery of the power equation and for using his power in productive ways, to "reinstate education, health, and the public sector." But he also criticizes Blair for ... "Blairism," that is, the tolerance of too many neoliberal nostrums. To be sure, he has the benefit of hindisght, and he is no doubt underestimating the role of Blairism in maintaining Blair in power. But he is more lucid in his appreciation of Blair than The Guardian gives him credit for.

Hollande Criticizes Greek Austerity Plan

François Hollande, buoyed by his success thus far in establishing himself as the frontrunner, has shed a bit of his caution and taken an important stand on a major issue, which is likely to become a defining focus of the campaign. He says that the austerity measures imposed on Greece by "the Troika" are too severe, and that, in addition to Greek governance failures, there was also a "failure of European governance."

This is a somewhat risky but important move. Risky, because it opens the Socialist candidate up to attacks that he is undermining a complex and delicate European consensus on this vital issue. Important, because it is not only the right position on the merits--Greek austerity will prove counterproductive in the coming months as it already has--but also reinforces Hollande's previous cautious statements about "renegotiating" the European agreement if he is elected. It will serve to alleviate French fears that draconian austerity will next be coming to France, along with the attendant disorders that have been much in evidence in televised scenes of the Athens riots. And this is an important move for Hollande, too, because it comes on the heels of a Moody's announcement that France is on its watch list and may soon be downgraded. Hollande is refusing to be cowed and is not saying that "le gouvernement ne peut pas tout," even though it can't: he is a candidate, after all, not yet an élu. The cold shower is for later. For now, it's time to fire up the troops and show some backbone.

It will be interesting to see the candidates debate this issue face-to-face.