Jospin switches back to interventionist economy intervenes on jobs

NOT SO MUCH a graceful manoeuvre, more a political hand-brake turn. Two weeks after stating on television that his government could no longer "administer" the economy, the French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, announced measures to discourage part-time jobs and punish "unfair" redundancies.

His promises, made to Socialist MPs, senators and MEPs yesterday at a party gathering in Strasbourg, followed a fortnight of confusion and anger in his Socialist, Communist and Green coalition. Having startled his supporters with a rhetorical bow to the Blairist centre two weeks ago, Mr Jospin has been forced to appease his coalition by lurching to the left.

In a politically disastrous television interview on 13 September, Mr Jospin said he was "shocked" by the plans of the French tyre giant, Michelin, to sack 7,500 employees - despite record profits - but he could do nothing. The days were gone, he said, when a government could "administer" or micro- manage the French economy. In the same interview, he rejected as "unhelpful" plans floated by his Employment Minister, Martine Aubry, to punish companies that made widespread use of part-time or short-contract employees.

Yesterday Mr Jospin said his government planned to do just that. Firms that have a big proportion of "precarious" jobs on their payroll would be forced to pay a higher rate of unemployment insurance.

He also announced that his government would impose financial penalties, such as higher unemployment contributions and lower redundancy subsidies, on companies that fired workers while in profit. This will probably be too late to discourage the Michelin redundancies but it will appease Socialist MPs and quieten their Communist allies, who had seized with joyous anger on Mr Jospin's apparent conversion to tooth-and-claw capitalism.

These have been an awkward couple of weeks for Mr Jospin, all the more so for coming out of what seemed a cloudless sky. The French economy is booming and creating more jobs than any other European country. The Prime Minister's television appearance on 13 September was supposed to be part of a series of events to celebrate these facts; to set out the government programme for the next two to three years; and to define Mr Jospin's policies as more successful and more socialist than those of Tony Blair.

What he actually said - that in a world of global markets, it is no longer possible for a government to second-guess decisions by private companies - would pass without notice in most countries. In France, it fed a growing debate about the influence of foreign capital on French business decisions.

The Michelin announcement was presented in France as a triumph of shareholder greed over jobs. Little attempt has been made, even on the right, to point out that the foreign holdings are an investment in France, which help to explain the country's boom.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

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
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
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?