Wednesday, December 27, 2006

War and glasses

Rumours have been circulating in the press and elsewhere that one of the first acts of a Latrine presidency in France would be to declare war on Britain.
Not only that but I have lost my glasses.
So let me make a couple of things absolutely clear (as we politicians say).
First, the war thing. It so happened that at one point I was chatting with a cove of my acquaintance (and fellow member of my almost-all-conquering pub quiz team) about my campaign, and he suggested that if I do become President of France, I could declare war on Britain.
Being a fair minded sort of chap I weighed the potential advantages of such a course and agreed that it would at least give everyone the opportunity to sort things out 'once and for all'.
This was by way of being an assessment of a proposal, rather than a firm statement of support for the idea.
Since then, I have had high-level policy discussions with my policy advisers (or wonks as I am wont to call them) and have decided that a firm plank of the Latrine Campaign is not declaring war on Britain, or indeed on most countries around the world.
Can't be clearer than that really, can I.
Now as far as the glasses are concerned, hereby hangs a tail.
I lost my glasses here in France. The following day, having exhausted most possible avenues for reuniting myself with my specs, I went to the Tourist Office of the place where I had lost them, it's not a big place so the Tourist Office serves additional functions, such as lost property.
There I asked the lady behind the counter if anyone had handed in my glasses.
Before reading on, you might want to ponder what you would have said and done if you had been that lady behind the counter. To inform your pondering you might want to remember that you are paid reasonable money to help and inform the travelling public.
If you have any experience of France, you might also like to ponder what the likely response to my question was.
I may be unusual, but to the first bit of pondering I come up with an answer that would include checking with my colleagues to see if anything had been handed in, enquiring as to further particulars about the circumstances of the loss and taking contact details for the glassesless person in the event that they did turn up.
Unfortunately those with experience of France will know that this would have been immeasurably far too much to expect.
Instead the lady (pleasantly, I hasten to add) said "Non" and seemed to think that this was sufficient and adequate response. I left feeling that it was a distinct possibility that if she had found the glasses herself, rather than having them handed in, the response would have been the same and it would have served me right for asking the wrong question.
So there you have it, a couple of hints as to what France will be like when I'm in charge:

  • we won't go to war with Britain
  • we will be more helpful to people who have lost their glasses
Thank you for listening
LibEgFrat to you all

Monday, December 25, 2006

My Christmas Address

The question most often asked of late has been, "Victor, where are you?". My lengthy disappearance has been the cause of much spilled ink and, it pains me to say, many spilt tears.
My period in the 'wilderness' breaks neatly into two phases.
First I wanted to get away to take the temperature of France. And I took it's temperature in the way traditionally much loved by the French: rectally.
Yes, I have journeyed to the arsehole of France, the foresaken banlieus (banlieux? I'm still struggling with the language) and there, my true identity cloaked and with only a few aides and assistants to help and protect me, I have moved among the people. I saw first hand the dreadful effects of decades of failed political leadership. This, remember, is the failed leadership for which little Sarko and SegaMegadrive Royale are the current torchbearers. Truly I have stuck the finger of political curiosity up the bumhole of this great nation, tested its prostate and taken its pulse. In doing so, I have learned that there is a wind of change coming.
France is ready for the Latrine.

It was necessary, therefore that the Latrine should make himself ready for France.
To this end, and having encountered my two nubile 'policy advisers' at a vodka bar in the Diocese of Southwark (where such encounters are more common than one would guess) I decreed that a policy retreat was required.

This formed the second part of my enforced absence. Our high level policy discussions consisted mainly of watching DVDs of the West Wing, Yes (Prime)Minister and that one where the bloke keeps saying "you could say that, but I couldn't possibly comment" before killing folk. We broke up the pressure of such arduous research by dancing around in our pants in the manner of a 1960s film.
The result of this is a full policy direction, some talking points and, erm, stuff we want to run past the focus groups.
Oh, and a law suit from one of the the policy assistants.
Hey ho, you can't win 'em all -- I was just interested to see if the whole bag of chestnuts would fit.
LibEgFrat to you all


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A (the?) Nerde writes

Why haven’t we heard from Victor Latrine?

I think I have the answer. On Oct 25th it is reliably reported that Victor was in Moscow gathering support for his presidential bid from President Vladimir Putin.

That afternoon Victor returned to London on a British Airways flight and the next day was seen in the company of a certain Mr Litvinenko who later became famous at the only man killed with a nuclear poison.

Strangely a few days later a very large sum of money arrived in our campaign account from the Narodny Bank.

Since the end of October there have been no reliable sightings of Victor and we have concluded that either he has succumbed to nuclear poisoning himself or has had to ‘go to ground’.

We, at the campaign headquarters, meanwhile are left in a difficult position with a vast sum of money ready to be spent on adverting, bribery, and general PR etc. but cannot do a thing until we hear from Victor.

I have written to the Narodny Bank and asked them to assure our patron that the money will be used for it rightful purpose and that only small amounts have been spent on essential administrative expenses.

I myself will be away from the office for the next week or so following up reports that Victor has been sighted in Monte Carlo.

Bon Voyage - Nerde

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Q & A with Victor Latrine -- part 1

For someone at the centre of a major internet buzz, Victor Latrine seems remarkably unflustered when we meet in his hideaway deep in rural England. The would-be President of France is courteous and friendly as he offers that most British of libations, a cup of tea. In his early 40s, with piercing blue eyes topped by an unruly shock of blonde hair he has a natural easy charisma. Throughout the interview he is calm, articulate and reflective, confirming the impression that one is in the presence of someone who can but break the mould in French politics.

  • Victor, when most people first learn about your campaign they think it is a joke. Is it?
I can understand why people might think that. It is clearly a quixotic and slightly loopy idea. But I'm completely serious about this.
France faces a fairly grim choice next spring. The ruling elite, like some in-bred royal family in former times, seems to be producing fewer and fewer candidates of any value. The alternatives are drawn from the deranged ends of the political spectrum and most people in France will seek to avoid any repeat of the national shame of allowing Le Pen into the second round last time.
I'm here to give France a real choice. A real alternative to the etiolated failures of the current system.
But change on its own is not enough. When elected I promise to tackle the structural problems that are holding France back and to stand up to the vested interests that seek to perpetuate them. This will be change for a purpose. Difference with vision.

  • What are these structural problems?
In short, France suffers terribly from a lack of flexibility. The educational system is hidebound and inadequate for all but the very few. Public services are in the thrall of unions who act neither in the interest of the service, nor even, often, of their own members. The private sector has created some stellar companies, but also some terrible dinosaurs. Tradesmen turn down work on a daily basis because they don't dare face the consequences of employing additional staff.
These are specific examples, and they are symptoms. There is a deep, deep malaise in the country. New ideas are strangled. There is little social mobility. France has failed to modernise in so many areas and now no longer dares to modernise anywhere. France has failed to accept new ideas from outside, and now no longer dares to accept new ideas even from within.
The rotten ruling class of Enarques and their sycophants will have us believe that somehow this refusal to move with the times is protecting Frenchness, and you'll see that I write about this on my blog. But we have to ask is it really France that is being protected?
  • I suspect I don't know France as well as you do, can you give me any concrete examples of this?
I can try. These are trivial examples, I know, but they are very visible ones. Even a day trip to France will show you what I'm talking about.
I remember when I traveled through France as a young man, the motorway service stations were a source of considerable envy -- they were modern, bright, spacious, serving good food. Twenty five years on, they are just the same. They haven't changed. And they now look drab and dowdy, and the food is predictable and mediocre.
Or, still on the subject of food, French restaurants were once at the pinacle of European gastronomy. At the top of the tree this is perhaps still the case. But lower down, in more prosaic establishments, we find menus that have been the same for decades. In many places you don't need to ask for the dessert menu because it will be crème brulée, ile flottante and tarte tatin. Now these are all fine in their own right. But where is the originality? Where is the flair?
More importantly where are the influences from other cultures, other cuisines? The French bourgeois kitchen is a splendid tradition and deserves to be well represented. But it's not the only way of cooking.
Actually that's a rather neat analogy for much of what goes on in France, don't you think?
More seriously, go into a supermarket in rural France and talk to the checkout staff. Do they feel that they have a chance to change jobs or start a company? No. Very often they feel that this was the niche that they were prepared for by France's education machine, and woe betide anyone who tries to find a new, more challenging, more lucrative niche.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Peeing on the flames

In a recent comment "anonymous" (perhaps not his/her real name) asks what I "intend to do about what some are calling the French intifadah" (apparently this is a legitimate spelling). Meanwhile, a correspondent congratulates me on the success of the campaign so far, but asks me to do something about men peeing in public.
Doubtless a deft politician, like Little Sarko, could meld these two themes together into a single, digestible sound bite, but it's beyond me.
Perhaps technocratic ENA-trained policy wonks will soon propose that men caught peeing in public be pressed into service extinguishing bus and car fires, but this will never be a full solution (even if the men in question are full of solution).
Instead I think it is important to consider the two issues separately.
As far as the 'intifada' question goes I have several things to say. I will be issuing policy statements on immigration, the inner cities, integration and employment over the course of next week.
In the meantime, I'd like to make one thing perfectly clear (did you see what I did there, it's a phrase I've borrowed from politicians on the radio, who are always making one thing perfectly clear). The social unrest in France and widespread lawlessness is not an intifada. To label it as such is to misunderstand, I suspect willfully, both the intifada in the Middle East and the problems in France.
I suspect that this spurious appellation has been applied by those who, for whatever reason, seek to boost the notion that we are engaged in some new holy war between Christianity and Islam. The idea that such a conflict exists and is escalating is clearly a convenient recruiting sergeant for religious nut-jobs on both sides, hence the desire to tag any event that even remotely suits their agenda as a battle in that war.
I'm having none of it.
Of course we need to tackle this lawlessness. Of course we need to understand how we have got into this situation and plot our way out of it. But this is not part of some greater conflict between two sets of mythology.
I would remind you all that in France (just as in at least one other country I can think of) there is a formal separation of the state from any form of religion. Crime is crime, and it is hard enough to handle as it is. I have no intention of allowing zealous loons to hijack crime in a bid to brand other zealous loons as even more zealous and loony than themselves.
Oh, and if you could all stop pissing in public too.
Thank you for your attention
LibEgFrat to you all

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mega Mo

Momentum is everything in politics, and thanks to your support our momentum is building rapidly.
Since the candidacy launched on Sunday, the number of visitors to the site doubled on Monday, doubled again on Tuesday and then tripled on Wednesday.
Hits have been registered from New Zealand, Vancouver, San Francisco, Israel, Italy, Spain. In fact pretty much everywhere except France! I think this is conclusive proof of the French establishment's fear of the power of our campaign. But they can not keep us quite for ever. Soon the clamour will be overwhelming.
As well as forcing the Constitutional Council into action we have won a near-endorsement from The Economist.
Because of the law of conservation of momentum, the more we've got the less the rest have -- Little Sarko is running out of steam, Her Royal with Cheese Highness and the other PS clowns never had much steam to start with.
The Latrine Presidency gets more likely with every day.
Thank you for your attention
LibEgFrat to you all

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The French Canard -- a mallard imaginaire!

Right down at the bottom there, commenting on my very first post, John asks if I shouldn't be writing this in French.
Others, privately, have expressed the view that to run for election as President of France whilst not being what one might call, erm, French is just a tad quixotic.
Obviously this is a real issue, and I certainly wouldn't want you to think it is one that I'm seeking to avoid.
As far as writing in French is concerned, this is something that I could quite easily do. However it would be time-consuming and might gloss over some of the subtleties of my policy message. Instead I am expecting that as I attract ever greater levels of support, my supporters will take on the challenge of translating our campaign literature into French.
As far as my nationality is concerned, although I hold a British passport, I am almost French. I had a French grandmother and could be really French if only my father, who was just a notch too young for military service in the UK, had not (quite sensibly in my view) decided to avoid conscription altogether.
As I say elsewhere, I fully expect that the popular surge of support for my campaign will lead not only to simultaneous translation of this site into French, but also to a massive campaign for me to be granted citizenship in time for the election.
The only slight obstacle on this path? Well guess who would be doing the granting -- yup, none other than Little Sarko! I say old chap, play the game.
Thank you for your attention


Shaken into action

Keen supporters of the Latrine candidacy will remember that a couple of days ago I posted a link to the Constitutional Council website's FAQ page on which there were lots of Qs but only one answer (see "Bless" below).
This link now takes you to a page where there are fewer questions, but they are nearly all answered.
Good to see that the Council has been forced into action by the power of our campaign.
I thank you for your attention
LibEgFrat to you all

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Economist backs my campaign (ish)

In a remarkable development, international uber-mag The Economist took time off from reminding its readers that Indonesia is at a crossroads and (almost) backed my campaign.
'What France needs,' it said, 'is a homme de fer' before (almost) going on to add 'and Victor Latrine is just such a man.'
Whilst not actually mentioning me by name, I think that anyone reading the article would see this as a clear nod in my direction. They were also pretty scathing about Le Petit Nicolas and Her Royal Highness.
Expect more opinion formers to follow suit pretty damn tootsweet.
I thank you for your attention
LibEgFrat to you all

Monday, October 30, 2006

Taking exception

When France wants to pick and choose which international rules it has to obey it often cites 'the French exception' or its special sub-class 'the French cultural exception'. These exceptions refer to the supposed right of France to protect its economy from the rules of globalisation and its culture from the advance of (largely American) English speaking cultural output.

These terms, presumably, are meant to have three effects.
  • First, they allow the French to opt out of certain obligations, simply by virtue of asserting that they are somehow different.
  • Secondly, they make (some) French people feel better about themselves -- by the implication that there is something exceptional about France.
  • Thirdly, they help perpetuate the demonisation of the US and UK (I refuse to use the adjective anglo-saxon to refer to anything other than an historical period).
This is all so much phooey.

Both 'exceptions' are undermined by the massive paradox that they create: a strong and vibrant economy or culture does not need this sort of protection, a weak and atrophied economy or culture doesn't merit this sort of protection.

Simply put, the exceptions have no theoretical justification.

A claim could be made for a practical justification if this sort of thinly disguised protectionism served the best interests of France. It just doesn't.

In fact, the exception myths serve only to build a destructive isolationism, damaging the very culture and economy that are supposed to be basking in their benevolent protection.

Protecting 'national' companies from foreign takeover bids may allow politicians to puff out their chests and grab a few ratings points from the extreme right, but it surely doesn't do anything to encourage greater inward investment.

Pushing the timeframe of EU electricity and gas market deregulation to, and beyond, the agreed limits, to protect the monopolies of those corporate dinosaurs EDF and GDF (whilst at the same time allowing these companies to go charging into foreign markets) might appease the unions, but it does nothing for French consumers or businesses, and what's worse it does considerable damage to France's image abroad.

Imposing a quota for French music to be played on the country's radio stations hasn't made France's radio stations any more entertaining and certainly hasn't made French music any better or any more successful internationally.

The deception wrought by this misguided protectionism is particularly cruel and particularly harmful when we consider just which culture the cultural exception seeks to protect. It is certainly not the culture of the inner cities. Not the culture of the immigrant. Not the culture of the young and the different. Instead it is some miasmic version of a French culture that has never really existed. It is some warped and restrictive collation of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Johnny Hallyday and Louis de Funes.

The 'exceptions' are destructive mirages that choke and strangle French business and culture. They are typical of the sort of half-baked solutions brought forward by the failed technocratic ENArchy.

What I will pursue, when elected, is not 'the French exception' but an exceptional France.

What I will ensure, when elected, is not 'the French cultural exception' but a culture that reflects the vibrant, diverse and powerful country that France will become under my leadership.

I will support businesses by reforming the private pension system, encouraging a real venture capital industry and eliminating the bureaucratic hell that kills so many fresh and bright entrepreneurial ideas in their infancy. More importantly, I will encourage the creation of strong world-beating companies by exposing the entire economy to real competition. Unlike the ENArchy I believe that France can succeed without being molly-coddled.

Children grow stronger by being allowed to play in the fresh air -- not by being kept inside under wraps.

I will support the real culture of France through grass roots financing that goes to artists not administrators, to buskers not bureacrats. Funding that reaches all sectors of society and encourages them all to express themselves to the full.

I'll say it again ('cos I thought it was rather neat the first time round)
No to the French Exception
Yes to an Exceptional France

I thank you for your attention

LibEgFrat to you all


Sometimes bumbling incompetence in government agencies can go so far as to become really quite sweet.
Consider this list of frequently asked questions from the French Constitutional Council.
Lots of questions, only one answer!
You couldn't make it up.
It'll all change when I'm at the helm.
I thank you for your attention
LibEgFrat to you all

Little Sarko blocks my path!

In my bid to become President of France, so that I can sort the place out, I thought that I should check out the dates and suchlike for the election.
What better place to look than the French Interior Ministry website -- the realm of Little Sarko himself.
Imagine my surprise when I found that the 'guide du candidat' for the forthcoming presidential elections is still not ready.
There might be alternative explanations for this, but to my mind it is a clear attempt by Little Sarko too protect himself from the opponent he fears most -- Me!
I thank you for your attention
LibEgFrat to you all (even the former Mayor of Neuilly)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I suspect I might find myself saying this again

I'm sure this won't be the last time I say this, but it's important to say it nonetheless.
If I make a criticism of France -- and I will do plenty of this as my campaign gathers momentum -- this does not imply that I believe that things are any better in Britain, or in any other country for that matter.
So if I say, 'French public services are a mess' this means that I think that French public services are a mess, not that I think British public services are spiffing, or that they do things so much better in Norway.
If I want to compare aspects of the situation in France with things elsewhere, then I will do so explicitly.
That is all.
Oh, and by the way, French public services are a mess!
Thank you for your attention
LibEgFrat to you all

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My credentials

Who, you might ask, is this Victor fella, to go spouting his mouth off about the state of France?
And a bloody good question that would be.
Well I'll tell you who, because to do otherwise would be to risk getting drawn into an endless spiral of rhetorical questions and exemplary answers.
To the extent that I have had an adult life (arguments for: my age; arguments against: my behaviour) I have spent much of it in France. I have lived, worked, loved, eaten, laughed, wept, sired children, disgraced myself and redeemed myself all within the confines of 'continental' France -- I dread to think what would happen if ever I visited the charmingly-named Dom-Tom.
I have watched France from the outside in and the inside in.
I have (though I'm a little ashamed to admit it) travelled more widely in France than I have in my native England.
I have rented and owned (in fact still own) property in the country, and have experienced the all the joys of dealing with the various arms of the French machine that doing either will bring.
I speak fluent -- although heavily accented (on purpose) -- French.
I read French newspapers, press releases, economic and political analysis and even translate some of it into English.
I have professional qualifications in France.
I have, at various times in their lives, entrusted my two children to the care of the French medical and educational systems.
I think this adds up to qualification enough.
Enough to analyse the state of the country.
Enough to set out my manifesto for change.
Enough to attract a very substantial book deal.
Enough to warrant a massive populist campaign on my behalf.
Enough to accept the grateful votes of a bewildered and disappointed electorate.
The rest, citizens of France, is in your hands.

I thank you for your attention
LibEgFrat to you all

My manifesto for France!!

Everyone else, it would seem, is having a crack at saying what should be done with poor old France, so I thought I'd stick my oar in.
Over the next few days and weeks I'll jot down my thoughts on the malaise that is affecting the hoary old hexagon, slowly building up a positive and thoughtful manifesto. If all goes according to plan this will attract huge attention in the blogosphere (or sphèroblog as our French cousins would have it) and land me a massive publishing deal, perhaps with our friends at Hachette or similar, resulting in a book coming out early in the new year.
Such will be the success of this oeuvre that there will be a massive populist campaign to adjust the minor technicality of my nationality (see future posts explaining why I am almost French) in order that I may stand in the Presidential elections next summer.
That my friends is my goal -- from zero to President of France in just a few short months. I know I can count on your support.
In fact, I am dependent on your support, as although I have many ideas about France and how to fix it, a complete manifesto might be a little difficult to produce in such a short space of time. So any ideas would be more than welcome (particularly on some of the more recondite areas of government, such as the prison system, fish quotas, and VAT (TVA if you insist) rules on the treatment of herringbone worsteds traded with the Czech Republic). As President of France I would endeavour to represent all the people -- not only the French! -- and thus I will fish in the largest possible pond in my search for policies.

Coming next: my credentials

I thank you for your attention
LibEgFrat to you all