Chirac strikes out in favour of the workers

CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK

The weather is wonderful, the presidential candidates are promising everybody a rosier future but France is suddenly alive with the sound of strikes. The social-security services , the post office, banks, railways, the domestic airline, Air Inter, - and even the Louvre - are all being hit by stoppages.

Strikes are unusual during French election campaigns but even more unusual has been the reaction of the leading right-wing candidates in the election. Far from holding up the stoppages as evidence of left-wing irresponsibility, the Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, has maintained a non-committal silence, while the Gaullist front-runner, Jacques Chirac, has been positively sympathetic. Indeed, an opinion poll published yesterday indicated that Mr Chirac was considered the candidate most likely to let wages rise after years of belt-tightening.

The unions can recognise a politician playing to the electoral gallery when they see one. They are busy warning that the winning candidate will not be given breathing-space after the two-round presidential elections ends on 7 May.

rrr

Which of their conservative cousins would John Major and Douglas Hurd like to see as next president?

All the indications are that the government in London and the embassy in Paris are as unsure as the 30 per cent of undecided voters in opinion polls.

For a time, Britain believed it had a friend in Mr Balladur, who was thought to be ready to reconsider France's long-standing and exclusive partnership with Germany. But Mr Balladur now seems keen on keeping the relationship down to two partners.

Mr Balladur's main rival on the right, Mr Chirac, approaches Europe with a distinctly Gaullist attachment to national sovereignty, which might make him seem more in tune with Mr Major. Mr Chirac's RPR party also includes a cohort of Euro-sceptics, including the National Assembly president, Philippe Sguin, who would hold high office under a Chirac presidency.

But the front-runner's reservations about closer European unity would be prompted simply by his desire to promote French interests.

Mr Chirac is, as a senior Foreign Office figure said recently, a nationalist first and last - "We could do business with him when French and British interests coincided, but how often does that happen?"

rrr

Brigitte Bardot, Mstislav Rostropovich and the creator of Astrix all have something in common. They figure among 80 names on Mr Chirac's "cultural support committee". The Mayor of Paris is not known for his deep artistic interests - he is said to be most at home with thrillers and Westerns (though he also has a taste for Oriential art). But his campaign organisers have decided it is time for him to drum up support among France's traditionally left-wing cultural community. The list unveiled this week is designed to hit all the bases, from the flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal and the historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie to the veteran rock singer Johnny Hallyday and the star of Paris's best-known transvestite cabaret, Michou. One of the most popular names on the list , the television comedian Patrick Sebastian, is in hot water because he let his political enthusiasm spill on to the screen on Saturday. He included a satirical sketch in his show depicting the minence grise of Mr Balladur, the small and perfectly formed Budget Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, rubbing himself against the Prime Minister's leg like a dog on heat. The management of the television channel loves Sebastian for his ratings, but is having kittens about what might happen to it if Mr Balladur wins and makes Mr Sarkozy his Prime Minister.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester...

IT Support Analyst - London - £22,000

£20000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chel...

Learning Support Assistants-Nantwich area

£8 - £9 per hour: Randstad Education Chester: We are currently recruiting for ...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London