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French Press Review 24 August 2018

French politicians hunt for new ideas. The pitfalls of taxing income at source. And, dare we ask, are summer holidays in France too long?


The front page of centrist paper le Monde tells us that France's political parties are looking for new ideas.

The language, lots of 50-dollar words, and the contents of the tale are arcane and rather vague. Yesterday was a slow day for real news.

But we'll press on.

"Buffeted by the emergence of Macron [that's President Emmanuel whose party has a majority in parliament] politicians seek inspiration from intellectuals or from neighbouring countries," the paper says.

In view of last year's crushing electoral defeat of established parties, it's fair to assume that they need to do something different, even if it's simply identifying a hot issue and making it their own.

Elites and masses

Among the mainstream-right Republicans, the paper says, the gap between globalised elites and the broad masses has become a recurring theme.

The far-right National Rally, formerly the National Front, considers itself driven by the "telluric movement" that crosses Europe. I didn't know what telluric means either. So, I looked it up. I means "relating to the earth". So it seems to be a reference to what they say is a political earthquake across Europe.

The formerly ruling Socialist Party is consulting young experts, we're told. Are there such?

And, the ruling party, the Republic on the Move, is thinking of a political line to more clearly define Macron's "progressivism".

"Short of money and weakened, parties are trying to involve new intellectuals to irrigate and fortify their their doctrines," says le Monde.

There's more inside the paper.

Here's a taste. "In recent months, some politicians are becoming infatuated with a new intellectual, who also examines the fractures of Western societies: David Goodhart, author of The Road to Somewhere (Penguin Books Ltd., 2017, untranslated). This British essayist, who analyses the populist phenomenon through the gap between globalised elites and sedentary popular classes, is very popular with the right."

Lest we forget, France adores intellectuals and wants to know if something works in theory before trying it in practice.

Pay as you earn

Conservative daily Le Figaro is more down to earth. Its top story is about the plan to begin taxing income at source, deducting it from your wage packet or pay slip, beginning in January next year.

The paper says there are worries and uncertainties. Bosses of smaller businesses are against the move.

It details what it calls "the pitfalls of the reform".

For example, a report by the Court of Auditors on the unintended consequences says the measure causes uncertainty about income tax revenue. There might be a shortfall of as much as two billion euros.

According to the court, "The uncertainty probably affects less than one billion but it exists."

Are school holidays too long?

"Too long . . . the summer holidays?" is the question posed on the front page of Aujourd'hui en France.

"The politicians returned on Wednesday. Twelve million students still have 11 days of rest. Not easy to keep them busy, look after them or, for many families, to pay for activities," the paper says.

Grandparents often come to the rescue. "It's among people over 65 that we find the most people in favour of reducing the holidays," the paper reports. "Nearly half think they are too long! They say they want to have their own life."

Still, "to reform the summer holidays is, politically, devilishly risky," says Aujourd'hui. It reminds readers that at the beginning of the school year 2017 government promised a "big consultation". A year later at the Ministry of National Education there seems to be no news of this project.


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