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