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French press review 30 April 2014

Have the French Socialists lost their way? Will the masses show their anger on International Workers' Day? And an international restaurant guide makes the French bilious.


French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is hanging by a thread, if we're to believe the front page of left-leaning Libération.

At a quick glance you might think the top man was sitting pretty, having seen his much-criticised savings plan accepted by the French parliament yesterday, with a comfortable margin. The problem is that 41 Socialist deputies abstained, showing that the majority, already reduced by the defection of the ecologists, is now threathened by internal forces.

According to Libé's editorial, headlined "Warning", the crucial task is for President François Hollande and his prime minister to show that a policy of budgetary hardship is not incompatible with socialist principles and that the mainstream left has not lost its way in the struggle to balance the books.

Yesterday's debate certainly allowed room for pithy political pronuciamentos. Jean-François Copé of the conservative UMP says the government is offering the French a return to ration cards. Eva Sas of the Green party EELV wonders at the determination to enforce policies so clearly rejected by the French electorate in the March municipal poll, a fiasco for the Socialists.

Conservative paper Le Figaro has a certain amount of praise for Valls, saying he has shown real determination in the fight against excessive public spending. He wants to free France from the stranglehold of debt. He is even prepared to treat the bosses and other rich with something other that predatory contempt, it says.

However, Le Figaro warns that we should not be blinded to certain harsh realities: the measures announced yesterday won't save the country. What is needed is structural reform, of the civil service (too many employees) and of labour law (too many restrictions). But Valls won't have the political courage or, on yesterday's showing, the parliamentary support for that sort of effort, Le Figaro believes, adding that this government's days are numbered.

Speaking of numbered days, the French Communist Party would like tomorrow, 1 May, to be a day of anger. The unions want International Workers' Day to be the occasion for massive demonstrations by wage earners against pension cuts, in favour of social justice, a fairer sharing of the profits.

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Le Figaro is having digestive problems.

What it can't quite keep down is the latest list of the 50 best restaurants in the world. Could the intestinal rumbling be due to the shocking fact that the first French establishment mentioned doesn't even make it into the top 10. Or that the same Danish diner, René Redzepi's Noma in Copenhagen, gets the top spot for the fourth year in five. And there isn't a single woman chef in the entire list.

Le Figaro says the classification is questionable, with dubious methods and a less-than -transparent judging system.

The problem is that this list has a very serious impact on business, bringing international clients to restaurants which might otherwise remain just locally famous.

The top French establishment is the Mirazur in Menton on the Mediterranean, already with two Michelin stars in a rival guide and booked out for months in advance. It makes just 11th place in the world's 50 best. Burp!

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