BY PAUL NEWALL
We should watch on with some interest the events in Paris and Brussels where the mainstream media is informing us that a movement known as the Gilets jaunes are protesting a hike in fuel taxes as part of French president Emmanuel Macron’s green taxation programme resultant from the Paris Climate Accord. (Macron has just folded to their demands.)
Looking beneath the surface there are in fact three different Gilets jaunes: from the left, right and centre – and a much larger number of reasons for the discord.
Emmanuel Macron pulled off the most astounding confidence trick to win the French presidency, he convinced the socialists that he carried the leftist principles of the Hollande government in which he served, he convinced the centrists and centre right that he wanted to reform the French economy and society and it turned out that he was just a sock puppet for Angela Merkel and the European Union.
As you can imagine the electorate aren’t happy.
What started as a demonstration over fuel tax has expanded exponentially into a three pronged challenge to his credibility. Most of the violence we are witnessing on the news is coming from the political fringes of the far right and more so the far left, but the larger numbers that are demonstrating have their political home in the centre right midstream.
The French electorate is split 40% left, 20% centrist and 40% right. So, in order to win any election , the successful candidate must win over two out of three of these groups. The En Marche movement that he leads and is so loved by the UK mainstream media managed to eat into all three groups, expanding the centre widely across the political spectrum and – faced with Marine Le Penn as opposition – the French electorate didn’t scrutinise Macron’s manifesto too closely lest they might have to vote for a candidate labelled far right.
Clearly Le Penn didn’t convince enough people that she’s more of a rehabilitated conservative than a Neo Nazi like her fascist father. Interestingly, the treatment of her by the French State since the election has probably done more to endear her to voters than any statement of policy that she could herself deliver. She received a great deal of sympathy from her target electorate when she was sentenced to psychiatric evaluation and counselling over anti-Islamist propaganda that her party distributed.
Like Brexit ,the AFD , and Donald Trump, the Gilets jaunes are a symptom of a much larger disconnect between the political class and the majority of ordinary voters which is manifesting itself as election shocks and ad hoc movements. Many hope it’s coming to the UK soon – hopefully minus the burning cars and Molotov’s. Steve Bannon has been visiting Europe hoping to stir an economic nationalist movement similar to Trumpism and it might well be the right scratch for the populist itch. I’d much rather see economic patriotism harness this nationalist horse rather that the more traditional suspects that hover on the right. Italy has proved that nationalism trumps political spectrum positions when things are done for the many rather than the few (apologies to Labour for using their slogan more correctly than their manifesto ).
For many years I’ve read Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail because he tends to shoot from the hip on common sense subjects and he’s an entertaining writer. One of his ongoing themes has been the proliferation of hi viz vests in our society, to the point that they’ve lost their point because there’s so many that they are no longer high-visible. I’m betting Littlejohn does a column soon amazed that the humble yellow fluorescent vest has become the iconic symbol of national pride and patriotic love of one’s country… to quote Richard “you couldn’t make it up”.
Guest Writer Paul Newall is a child of the 1960’s from a traditional Labour-supporting household. Paul dabbled with Trotskyism in the 1980’s but then “grew up and thanks to having responsibilities I slowly migrated across the political spectrum until instead of hating Maggie Thatcher I admired her for beating my side in the miners strike”.