FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

François Hollande, France’s Tony Blair?

François Hollande, the socialist candidate in the presidential race, wants to be seen by the public as the “Mr. Normal” of French politics: calm, measured and reassuringly honest. In short, he wants to be seen as Nicolas Sarkozy’s antithesis. Hollande’s “normality” is reflected in the polls. In the first round of the presidential election, “Mr Normal” was in electoral terms “Mr Catch-all”. The socialist candidate fared well across all social classes; with men as well as women. Compared to all other candidates, this consistency is remarkable.

“Mr Normal” is not average though. He is on course to beat the incumbent president. According to the latest polls, Hollande is still 7 points ahead of Sarkozy, which is an unusually large gap at this stage of the race. Evidently, these are only polls and we shall see on Sunday whether Hollande manages “to inflict a crushing defeat” on Sarkozy. (To paraphrase Jean-Luc Mélenchon)

Appearances are deceptive. Because Hollande wants to impose a 75% income tax on earnings above 1 million euros and has talked about adding growth provisions to the EU fiscal compact, I hear City analysts crying wolf. How droll. Hollande is the quintessential moderate. He was the Parti Socialiste (PS) leader for 11 years and during that time he managed to preserve the unity of this most fractious party. He comes from the right-wing of the PS. In his younger days, he was close to Jacques Delors and other “social Christians”. This is hardly synonymous with left radicalism.

Hollande studied at HEC – a well-known business school in Paris, then ENA, the Grande Ecole which trains the country’s political elite. He is not an old-fashioned intellectual in the Mitterrand mould, but a sharp technocrat. Like most politicians today, he is ideologically adaptable and ambiguous. Asked on France Culture who were his political mentors, he gave a long eclectic list of names: the Dreyfusard Bernard Lazare, Jaurès, Blum, de Gaulle, Jean Moulin, Henri IV, Marquis de Condorcet, Victor Hugo, Clemenceau and Salvador Allende. He is not interested in political ideas and reads few books. Hollande is above all a pragmatist. If he trounces Sarkozy in the polls on Sunday, Hollande may have to govern on the left. If he narrowly wins, he might turn to François Bayrou and the centre.

When attending PS executive meetings, Hollande used to infuriate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. (The Left Front candidate in the first round of this election was a PS member until 2008). Mélenchon complained that every time Hollande was put in an awkward position, he would stop debating seriously and start making light-hearted comments or even cracking jokes to diffuse the tension. In 1999, Hollande and a PS delegation came to London to meet with Tony Blair. I was a member of Hollande’s party at the time so I was invited to join the French delegation. When we left Downing Street, Hollande matter of factly asked me whether Blair’s third way could be imported into France. I replied that anything is importable, but I warned that an attempt to bring to France Blair’s “Thatcherism with a human face” would result in the annihilation of the French left. Hollande looked bored. Before I could even finish my peroration, he put his hand on my shoulder and with a smile on his face he proceeded to tell me one of his trademark jokes.

Philippe Marlière is a Professor of French and European politics at University College London (UK). He can be reached at: p.marliere@ucl.ac.uk

More articles by:

Philippe Marlière is a Professor of French and European Politics at University College London (UK). Twitter: @PhMarliere

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail