New style, new slogans, no new policies: Hollande tries to start again

 

Paris

President François Hollande attempted to re-launch his struggling presidency last night by promising to re-build a strong France for a "new generation" and a "new world".

In a press conference seen as a critical opportunity to set a new tone and a new direction after a much-criticised first six months in office, Mr Hollande sought to abandon his image as a bumbling and laid-back "President Normal" and tried to define himself instead as a hands-on "President Responsible".

"I've made the choice of reform… I am not preparing the fate of the next election but of the next generation," President Hollande said. "I wish to be a president who is worthy of the very serious situation in which our country finds itself." France was grappling, he said, "not just with a new crisis but a new world".

In his successful presidential campaign last spring, Mr Hollande promised that he would be a coherent and consistent President who would bring change with "justice". He is accused – by both the right and some on the left – of being incoherent in his message, inconsistent in his policies and moving too slowly in the face of economic stagnation and rising unemployment.

Mr Hollande's approval rating, which was more than 60 per cent at the start of the summer, has slumped to the high 30s – the steepest fall of any head of state since France switched to presidential politics 50 years ago. The popularity of his Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has crashed even further.

The President made no new proposals at the press conference. He said that no French government had taken "so many decisions so quickly" on the two evils "undermining" France: the public debt and flagging industrial competitiveness. He admitted that he may have failed to convey a sense of direction or urgency but hinted that part of the blame for his plunge in popularity must lie with the impatience of the French electorate.

"Our national debt is more than 90 per cent of our national wealth; unemployment is rising; our competitiveness is constantly falling," he said. "A change of government changes those in power. It does not change the world.

"I understand the worries of the French people but the only thing that counts is not today's opinion polls but the state of France in five years. The decline of France is not inevitable."

President Hollande is trapped between the realities of France's perilous economic position and the expectations he raised during his campaign, when he spoke of "putting the magic back into the French dream".

He was much criticised on the left last week – and some Greens threatened to leave the governing coalition – when he accepted the main lines of an official report on France's flagging ability to compete industrially. During the campaign, Mr Hollande criticised President Nicholas Sarkozy for cutting the heavy payroll taxes which fund the French welfare state and imposing VAT rises to make up the shortfall.

Last week Mr Hollande and Mr Ayrault agreed to give a €20bn payroll-tax break to employers over three years, funded partly by an increase in VAT. President Hollande insisted last night that it was "quite wrong" to see this as a revival of the Sarkozy plan that he had once reviled. The previous government, he said, wanted to raise VAT rates immediately from 19.6 to 21.2 per cent. He was raising some rates to 20 per cent but only from 2014. VAT rates on basic items needed by ordinary people would actually be reduced.

Commentators said that Mr Hollande had gone some way towards finding a new "narrative" which would convince the French people that he had some sort of a roadmap towards solid policies. President Sarkozy spoke much of change but achieved little, they pointed out. Mr Hollande has done more than many realise but has failed – until last night – to sell his programme to voters or the media.

After the whirl of the Sarkozy years, Mr Hollande was elected as a muddle-through kind of politician. He is now being accused of trying to muddle through. This is, at least, a variant on the usual French pattern of electing politicians to bring "change" and then protesting against the changes.

Hollande on...

The presidency As a president I will be like the candidate that I am, a respectful candidate, a rallying candidate, a normal candidate for a normal presidency, at the service of the Republic.

Europe Austerity need not be Europe's fate.

The future During a term in office there are highs and lows, but what counts is that the goal is set as well as the means to achieve it.

Achievement I am proud to have been capable of giving people hope again.

The nation France isn't just any country in Europe, and its president is not an ordinary leader in the world.

Suggested Topics
Sport
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
News
politics
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker