A verbal war that is very one-sided
View From France
Oh goody, goody, verbal war has broken out again across the Channel.
It has been a while since we had a good Anglo-French slanging match. What was the last one all about? The Sangatte refugee camp? The great beef war of 1999? Jacques Chirac's refusal to invade Iraq in 2003?
Here is something strange, though. The French press and people have not joined in. Annoyingly, they rarely do.
Parts of the British media have been re-enacting the Battle of Waterloo with their traditional weaponry: insults, moral certainty, exaggeration. The French media have, so far, refused to fight.
The aggressive, teasing and unhelpful comments made about Britain in recent days by President Nicolas Sarkozy, the French central bank governor and the French finance minister have scarcely been reported in France.
Mr Sarkozy's suggestion, to a private political gathering, that David Cameron behaved in Brussels like a "stubborn kid", was buried in an article in a French investigative newspaper. It made headlines in Britain but none in France.
The central bank governor, Christian Noyer's suggestion that Britain, not France, should lose its Triple A debt rating was made in an interview with a local newspaper in Brittany. It has scarcely been reported in the French national media.
The French finance minister (and Harry Potter lookalike) Francois(cedilla on c) Baroin has now twice suggested that France's economy is in better shape than Britain's. This is silly: like boasting that you would prefer to drive on a flat tyre than an empty petrol tank. There has been some coverage of Mr Baroin's remarks in France but not very much.
The French government is clearly miffed with what it sees as Britain's unhelpful approach to the Euro crisis. It is trying to distract from its own problems, such as the probability that its "triple A" debt rating will be downgraded in the near future.
The remarks by Mr Sarkozy (in private) and Messrs Noyer and Baroin (in public) were foolish. But they have not succeded in diverting the gaze of the French media and the French people from their own problems: the gathering recession in France implied by new figures published yesterday; or the continuing threat to the survival of the Euro.
Those same ill-judged remarks have been exploded out of all context and proportion in Britain. Mr Noyer has been called a "traitor and an "imbecile". Mr Baroin is the new poster boy for the "gall of Gaul".
French bashing - an incessant stream of negative reporting and commentary - is one of the staples of the British media. But our cross-Channel warriors claim the pathological right of the bully through the ages: to bash foreigners and not to be bashed in return.
None of that is new. What is new is the gravity of the common problems faced by both nations. It is time to calm down. We are all clinging to the same life raft.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...