Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Was that wise?

Been away from the computer for most of today (Mon), so I'll catch up on tomorrow. Wasn't going to blog today but I had to mention this.
If the French social model is so great, why is the country in flames?
Not my words but the words of European Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandleson. (Newsnight, 7 minutes into Monday's broadcast if you want to hear it from the horses mouth*. Latest programme link should work for 24 hours).

Mr Mandelsoon could well be expressing a fair point. I can't really claim to know enough about French society to really make a judgement on that. From what I've heard, it seems to at least be a reasonable question to be asking.

But from the European Trade Commissioner? While he's on camera? Has the man gone quite mad? I may not know a great deal about French society but I'm fairly sure they won't find it particularly amusing. If French newspapers are anything like British ones, Mandelson is about to get creamed (if I knew anything about French cooking, there'd be a reference to it here). Members of the French government are hardly likely to be better disposed towards Mr Mandelson either. Perhaps he just wanted to make his job even more difficult than it already is. Peter likes a challenge; he's a fighter, not a quitter. Seriously though, what was he thinking?

Leaving aside that amazing utterance, the Newsnight report did something I just didn't think possible. While watching it, I actually felt a tiny hint of a suggestion that it might be, at least theoretically, possible to feel a glimmer of sympathy for our Mandy. What an extraordinary feeling. Fortunately, it quickly fades. Still, on the one side, he's got the French saying "give too much away and you'll have 100,000 French farmers parked outside your office every day, for ever", and on the other, he's got the US and the developing countries saying "is that seriously all you've got to offer, you odious little man?". It's not a job for the feint of brain.

It looks like the WTO talks are in a pretty shaky state. I don't really want to go into any great detail today, but I did notice another extraordinary outcome of that report. My opinion on WTO negotiations (in a very small nutshell):
  • The government of the United States of America led by George W. Bush: Good.
  • The European Union: Bad.
That's three shocks in one report, I don't think my heart can take much more. Credit where it's due though, the US government are offering to move a lot further than the EU. Maybe we can use that to shame the French into making further concessions. Of course, anyone who suggested that the French have no shame would be guilty of xenophobia based on crude stereotypes, probably in an attempt to garner a cheap laugh, and I'll have no truck with that sort of thing here. Ahem.

Anyway, I digress. Peter Mandleson, eh, what is he like? Maybe he wants to be forced to resign from yet another job. Who knows, the poor man might be addicted to the rush. It's the only explanation I can think of which doesn't involve him being an idiot.

* I wonder if you imagine the enormous effort of will it took to use mouth in this sentence?

No comments: