The president should be applauded for his courage, hard work, plain-speaking and his love for France, says Anne-Elisabeth Moutet
8:49PM BST 20 Apr 2012
Sarko campaigned five years ago by telling the French to their faces that he would not cosset them. Their standard of living would rise, he said, if they worked harder. Even before the financial crisis changed everything in 2008, you should have heard the screams and guffaws of the people who, early on, had decided he was an insufferable oik. It was simplistic. It was condescending. It was ridiculous.
For 12 years, Jacques Chirac and his successive cabinets, Right and Left, had carefully avoided any “courageous” (in the Sir Humphrey meaning of the word) decisions that might cause the French to strike and take to the streets. Note that by “the French”, I really mean that category of civil servants and state employees who have tenure for life, and can bring the country to a standstill with a handful of union members.
This was because, a couple of months after Chirac’s election in 1995, France’s public services, and therefore the smooth running of the country, ground to a halt for almost two months in protest at a pretty mild reform of the country’s generous, pay-as-you-go pension system. Even though the vast majority of privately employed citizens managed to get to their workplaces, sometimes by dint of astonishing physical effort, Chirac fired his PM and decided never to try to push an unpopular reform again.