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French press review 30 September 2014

This morning's front pages are a strange mix. There’s concern on how social security cuts will affect families. Parents are anxious about their kids’ homework. Teachers are feeling undervalued. The far right arrives in the French Senate. French people are ready to help out the aged. And Juppé’s judged French politics’ best joker.


Conservative paper Le Figaro looks at government proposals to reduce the social security deficit and finds that, once again, the Socialists have seen fit to attack the very foundations of French society with an axe, slashing bonus payments for second and later children, reducing maternal leave to 18 months, and hacking 600 million euros off various grants, payments and bonuses.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The family has been "sacrificed on the altar of savings," we are told. Worse, "the climate of confidence" has been destroyed.

Le Figaro's editorial says having children in France will soon become a sport for the rich.

The main headline in tabloid Aujourd'hui en France reads "Parents at the end of their tether" but the popular daily is not complaining about the proposed cuts. Their problem is homework. Kids in French primary schools are legally protected against any effort by teachers to get them to do a few lessons after hours. But 97 per cent of families find their children obliged to do extra work at home, with 58 per cent of parents prepared to give a helping hand and slightly less than half of those feeling up to the task in all subjects.

The paper's cartoonist has a kid asking his father to help him with his French homework. "Then I'll help you set up your iPhone," says the youngster.

Communist L'Humanité also gives pride of place to the education sector, noting that schools are increasingly being forced to recruit staff unofficially. Despite these efforts, many specialist teaching jobs remain unfilled. Low pay, a profession undervalued in social terms, a failure to adjust to technological and other changes are some of the reasons behind this flight from the classroom. It's a damning indictment, says L'Humanité, of a government which promised to make education its number one priority.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

Libération's front page is divided between worry at the fact that two members of the far-right Front National have been elected to the French Senate and fear at what Beijing might do to ensure that pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong don't go too far. That article is chillingly headlined "From Tiananmen Square to Hong Kong," a reminder of the 1989 crackdown against students in the Chinese capital in which at least 1,000 people lost their lives.

At least there's a bit of good news on the front page of Catholic La Croix.

There, we learn that one French person in every two is prepared to take on voluntary responsibility to ensure that old people don't suffer too much from loneliness. Those questioned said they could spare one hour per week.

Tomorrow is International Day of the Old.

The French Press Club last night awarded its annual prize for humour in politics to former prime minister Alain Juppé. The man who is now mayor of Bordeaux and hopes to be the conservative UMP party’s candidate in the next presidential election, spent two years in the mid-2000s in political exile following his conviction for fraud while he worked for Jacques Chirac at the Paris Town Hall. His remark, considered by the judges to be the most hilarious of the year, appeared in the newspaper Libération. Asked about the political future of some of his adversaries, embarrassed by judicial pursuit, Juppé replied "In politics, no one is ever finished. Look at me."

Juppé is now frequently chosen as the French voter's favourite politician, though the competition is not exactly stiff.

And, if that's the best he can do with the jokes, Alain is not exactly going to have us rolling in the aisles.

Personally, I preferred the special prize awarded to former minister Arnaud Montebourg for his observation that he believes "Nicolas Sarkozy will be back . . . in handcuffs." And the Press Club should have a mangled metaphor award for Hervé Morin of the New Centre Party for his pithy and thought-provoking assertion that "The centre is not attempting to be the spare wheel on the Titanic."


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