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.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned that the 'journalist' who conducted this interview has not identified himself or the publication for which he works. Come on, Victor! Don't tell us you used up all your 'funny name juice' coming up with your own disarmingly puckish sobriquet. Give the chap a waggish name and pretend he's a freelancer.

Victor Latrine said...

You're absolutely right. The intro should read:
I was recently interviewed by Jacques Ouef of Le Parisien d'Autrefois...

Satisfied?
Eh?
Well areya?
Dyou want some?

weasel said...

"In his early 40s, with piercing blue eyes topped by an unruly shock of blonde hair he has a natural easy charisma"

Admit it. You are Boris Johnson, arent you?

Victor Latrine said...

Surely Johnsons has an unnatural easy charisma?!