Leading Article: Anything they can do ...

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The Independent Online
The French, we learn again, are not like us. Offered a bracing regime of low pay and long hours worthy, in its rigour, of Enterprise Britain, their truckers strike for early retirement and bonuses. Rather than picket in the modern fashion, with a beleaguered gesture at the depot gates, they block every autoroute. Instead of moving them on, the police watch and smoke cigarettes. France becomes a single traffic jam; trapped commuters toot their support. Then, the government gives in to the truckers. Stubbly men use the word "revolution" and kiss each other, hard.

In all, a cause for some satisfaction over here. They have their 1789 and 1968, farmers who manure roads, fishermen who plan to "invade" Guernsey today if prevented from fishing there. We have, our more patriotic newspapers remind us, the milder British customs of compromise, gradualism, John Major. As the Prime Minister said of the truckers' blockade last Wednesday, while visiting Sainsbury's, "I'm delighted ... the days of strikes like that in this country have long since gone. They occur elsewhere."

Then again, we have had the odd recent outbreak of the French Disease. Those road protestors, like a rash along bypass routes. Hunt saboteurs. Land-occupying New Levellers in Wandsworth, with their talk of the English Civil War, the one experts on British consensus never quite get round to mentioning. And then there was that poll tax business in Trafalgar Square ... Actually, when it comes to it, we can throw a paving stone with the best of them. And, strangely, as in France, it seems to have an influence: the poll tax went; hunting may follow; last week, the Chancellor abandoned 110 new road schemes. As they might say on the barricades, "Chacun a son coup".