Friday, April 18, 2008


I've been hearing rumors for some time now that Martine Aubry would make a move in the national arena. Apparently her consolidating her hold over the communauté urbaine de Lille is as good a pretext as any. Today's trial balloon in Le Monde portrays Aubry as the "anti-Ségolène"--a convenient image to have if the race shapes up as Ségo versus the rest of the field. The article is signed by Raphaëlle Bacqué, against whom Ségo had a lawsuit for a while for invasion of privacy (subsequently withdrawn).

Bacqué points out that Aubry's biggest handicap is that her name is attached to the laws instituting the 35-hour week, which are quite unpopular in certain quarters. On verra. I would put her down as a dark horse, who has waited until rather late in the day to make her move.


Le Figaro commissioned a poll about unemployment. It used its favorite polling firm, OpinionWay. Marianne quickly responded that the poll was meaningless, because "everyone knows" that OpinionWay is biased toward the Right. Business as usual, no? Well, yes, but the problem with denouncing the messenger is that it dispenses with considering what the message was supposed to have been. And even if one grants that OpinionWay isn't reliable, the results of its poll are curious, and even more so if the firm is supposed to favor the government. Because what the poll shows is that the respondents do not trust the government to set conditions concerning when the unemployed must accept offers of employment or lose unemployment benefits. Only 23 percent of those polled believe that the government should fulfill this function. A large majority would prefer to see these conditions set by "the social partners," that is, unions and employers, rather than by the government. Is this what a biased poll would be expected to show? And what does it mean?

One possible interpretation is that most people, whether they regard the long-term unemployed as shirkers (which Marianne sees as the bias of the Right) or as victims vulnerable to being pressed into involuntary servitude by a heartless system, do not trust the state because they view politicians as vulnerable to pressure from both employers and unemployed. The social partners, respondents apparently assume, can at least be trusted to defend their own interests, whereas the politicians will pander to whichever group is most troublesome at the moment. This image of the state is a far cry from the august tradition of the public servant as neutral arbiter between contending social forces. This rejection of the state does not seem to be the exclusive province of either Left or Right, however. Both sides are distrustful, and both seem to believe that a bargain struck between adversaries is preferable to the decision of a supposedly neutral but in fact unreliable arbiter. If the poll is biased, it may exaggerate the degree to which the French believe that the unemployed are refusing "acceptable" offers of work, but it nevertheless reflects a disaffection from the state that seems to transcend the partisan divide.

Eurozone Deficit Down

The Eurozone deficit is down to its lowest level in seven years, but France is near the bottom of the class. The ECB might use this evidence of good fiscal discipline to justify a little monetary loosening if it weren't so concerned about high inflation.

AP Plans to Close French Bureau

The Associated Press will very likely close its French bureau after its employees set conditions deemed impossible by potential buyers Bertrand Eveno and the Bolloré Group. This will leave many American papers even more in the dark about France than they already are.