Government reshuffle goes to the Right

François Fillon was renamed Prime Minister of France yesterday in time for today’s reshuffle.

Details will trickle in for courses on facebook ads over the course of the day but the early announcements are showing that the government is taking a right turn.

What it all shows is that Sarkozy is trying to appeal to his base. He’s in a terribly weak position, and the last reshuffle before the presidentials (presumably) wasn’t really his.

The fact that Fillon is there instead of his rival demonstrates that the party barons wanted him to stay, Sarkozy wanted him to go. Look who won.

The other interesting fact is that Bernard Kouchner is out. He was the ex-Socialist who became Foreign Secretary. You could call this the end of the ‘ouverture’ – the French name for “government of all talents”.

The Interior Minister (most important job for Presidential hopefuls) hasn’t changed, and Christine Lagarde remains as Economy Minister.

I’m looking out for Estrosi, to confirm my analysis of the Roma disaster.

Radio: HR interviewed on Spending Review

Here’s another interview I did for 1449 AM URB radio on October 20th, about the Comprehensive Spending Review.

It’s about 5 minutes long, hopefully there is an improvement from last time!

Click the link to download the MP3. (about 5MB)

Bath Buzz 20 Oct CSR Interview

Liar Liar, a video

I’ve just been sent this through the Contact Page

A very professionally done video. Excellent job.

Radio: My interview on the Browne Report

On the 13th October I was invited on to 1449 AM URB (University of Bath Radio Station) to talk about the Browne Report. Here’s the interview:

I think it was okay for a first appearance, but I think you’ll notice an improvement on the show of October 20th on the Spending Review)

Buzz 101013 Browne Review Part 1

Buzz 101013 Browne Review Part 2

(Why did it take so long for me to upload it? Because I’ve just got the program that let’s me edit the show to bring you just the interview part)

Georges Frêche has died

I’ve just learned that Georges Frêche has died, just a few hours ago, from a heart attack.

He was the controversial character expelled from the Parti Socialiste for some unfortunate comments he made about another PS leader.

Readers will also remember his project that I wrote about a few months ago (here) to create statues of great men in history; no doubt Georges Frêche was great in his own way.

The question is of course how this may affect the presidential candidate primaries for the Parti Socialiste. Though no longer a member, he clearly would have had an impact as such a high profile éléphant.


A reader, @CTerry1985, asked “How will his vacancy as President of a Region be filled? By-election, or simply by members of his caucus?”

As President of a Region, he will have been elected as a Regional Assembly Member as the head of the list based system. His list won the most votes, therefore his list gets a majority of Assembly Members, who then elect the President.

This means the First Vice-President will take over until the Assembly meets to elect a new President, which will probably be the 1st VP as the next name on the winning list.

The battle for France is over

Yesterday, the Senate approved the law to extend the retirement age in France.

It is the end of a very long battle between Nicolas Sarkozy and the French People; the President has won.

However, though the law has passed, the trade unions have not finished expressing themselves.

The next few weeks will be crucial for the French society, as some commentators (myself included) have noted the potential for riot and revolution like we saw in Paris in 1995 or even the events of May 1968.

Life on Mars Hill (interview)

As part of Paul Burgin’s “Mars Hill” blog, I was interviewed for his series “Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger.”

Click here to read it.

In the shadows of the Shadow Cabinet

I think the positioning of people in the shadow cabinet shows that Ed Miliband is off to a rocky start.

By losing brother David, he has immediately lost a key ally in the cabinet, but I don’t want to comment on family matters.

What caught my eye is where the “top jobs” went.

Shadow Chancellor: Alan Johnson
Shadow Foreign Secretary: Yvette Cooper
Shadow Home Secretary: Ed Balls

The Balls-Cooper household must have had its roof blown off. Johnson has been put there because of general competence, likeability and political neutrality (say “moderate”) to keep Balls away from his ‘dream job’. Steady Al won’t cause any trouble for Ed M.

Balls, as a now-scorned political operator, has been kicked to the Home Office, where he’ll be so busy on the job he won’t have time for anything else.

Cooper, who would have been my pick for the Treasury, has been sent to the Shadow Foreign Office, a political wasteland where she will have to chase after journalists herself. Nobody bothers interviewing the Shadow Foreign Sec. They only ever got Hague on because he was Hague and de facto Deputy Tory-in-Chief. The only thing she would be able to kick up a fuss about will be Europe, which is a vote-loser anyway. There aren’t any treaties in the offing and no elections in sight. It’s off the agenda.

He even put Diane Abbott in a junior position. (Tent pissing out.)

At least he’s put 22 new MPs in the line-up so they can get trained as fast as possible.

Overall we’re not off to a good start, which is bad for Ed, bad for Labour and very bad for Britain.

The French greet Ed Miliband

Press Release from Martine Aubry, leader of the Socialist Part in France : Election of Ed Miliband as Labour Party Leader:


I am delighted with the victory this weekend of Ed Miliband as head of the Labour Party.

I welcome the election of a leader who has the energy, historic culture and the will to reunite and revive the Labour Party. Backed by the unions, attached to the role of social transformation of the left, known for his strong commitment in the fight against world poverty and climate change, I have no doubt he will give strength to Labour. I wish good luck to Ed Miliband to build the “Next Labour”. As Ed said last night: “The journey starts today.”

The arrival of Ed Miliband is new hope for the United Kingdom, but also for Europe. With the Next Labour, the SPD of Sigmar Gabriel, and our other European partners, we will design and build the Left that is on its way.


Tony Blair interview with France 2 (transcribed & translated!)

Tony Blair was interviewed by David Pujadas from France 2 this evening.

I can’t embed the video (crafty French!) but you can get the video by following this link to the video here.

A few people have asked me what I think of his level. Now, I’d say I’m about 85-90% fluent in political discussions, so remember that I’m by no means perfect, but I certainly got the interview 100%.

What I would say is that he does make a few grammatical mistakes, and often his answers sound like the ones I would come up with for my A-levels. A lot of “C’est une question difficile” type filler phrases. A few times he reaches for the English sound-bite or gets a bit stuck, and at one point he breaks down a little bit and comes up with the glorious Franglais “Pas bien speaké” but credit where credit is due for managing very, very well.

I must add that the interviewer doesn’t cut him much slack in his questioning. Though the questions themselves aren’t especially in-depth, Pujadas does not attempt to slow down, speak clearer or explain the difficult bits.

Here’s a translation, in most cases I jazzed up his french translation to what he meant to say (I understand his thought process quite easily) and in other places I went with a more literal translation to give you an idea of his level. I’ve tried to show some more obvious errors and where he struggles a bit, but I don’t want to be patronising but going through every little detail, because it’s fluency that matters more than accuracy so overall he does a great job.

TB France 2 300x170 Tony Blair interview with France 2 (transcribed & translated!)


Pujadas: Good evening Tony Blair. You’re speaking in French tonight, you like France, you’ve lived in France. You’ve written your mémoires but you’re only 55 years old. Do you miss power?

Blair: From time to time, yes. Frankly, but I have a new life which is full of things to do. I’m always very motivated, and if i can wake up each morning with a sense of purpose I’m happy.

Pujadas: Because 55 is very young, do you think you might return to power one day?

Blair: Not impossible but frankly unlikely. It’s hard to answer that question without speculation about what I’d be going to do. I don’t know. For example, with the Presidency of the EU last year, if they had wanted me to do it I would have been very happy.

Pujadas: So your book has been a commercial success, but there are also the critics. How do you persuade them and the protests?

Blair: There are always critics, I was Prime Minister for 10 years and there were a lot of big and difficult events. It’s natural that there are protests, but it doesn’t represent the majority of the country. So when I was in Ireland the other day there were protesters but not many. Most people in Northern Ireland wanted to thank me for peace in the country, so you have to be calm. It’s like that, political life.

Pujadas: What you’re most reproached for is the War in Iraq, you wrote a lot about it in the book and say you don’t regret anything.

Blair: Iraq at the moment is in a very fragile situation, but if we had left Saddam as leader of Iraq that would also have posed some problems, so I think you have to have a sense of balance. It was a very very difficult decision, and because of September 11th we had to take a totally different point of view about these things. It’s difficult to judge and in the book I wanted to convince people no that I was right but that I have an equally valid point of view.

Pujadas: Is Obama moving to fast in taking troops out of Afghanistan?

Blair: No, I think it’s totally intelligent and wise to have a date for the reduction of troops but you have to do the job, faire le job*, achieve the objectives for Afghanistan and i think we can do them but we have to redouble our efforts, notably in the civilian** domain.

(* He says this in English. ** He says civilian which does not exists as a word when he means civil)

Pujadas: Many haven’t understood why you had such a close relationship with George Bush. Many in Europe haven’t understood that.

Blair: (laughing) Here in Great Britain too! Yes, but there were a lot of disagreements with George Bush. For example on Climate Change or the Middle East Peace Process, for example. But on this question of security and on the dangers, I was with him and the United States.

Pujadas: Now you say we may have the same problem with Iran, and you’ve taken a hard line in some interviews. Do you think we should prepare for war if Iran continues with its nuclear program?

(Linguistically Blair struggled with this question)

Blair: We hope not. We hope that sanctions and the Security Council can manage a different attitude from Iran towards a nuclear capacity. But we must not have this regime with a nuclear bomb. I wouldn’t take the risk if I were leader. We have to leave all the options on the table.

Pujadas: So then, with you, the Labour Party won three elections. What advice would you give to the French Left who wish to return to power after years in opposition?

Blair: It’s difficult and I don’t want to be someone who gives advice to the Left in France which has to take its own decisions, themselves. But for the Left and for progressivist* politics, you always have to remember that the world is changing rapidly. The left has to be the means to adjust** society and the country to this change, or otherwise it becomes a space for the conservatives. So we have to be, the people with a vision of the future, who take in tour hands the means to change society in a way that preserves the goal of social justice in the modern world. If we don’t modernise, we’ll be crushed by the electorate. It’s for this reason, even with the financial crisis, the left hasn’t won many elections recently.

(*Progessiviste should be progressive. ** He asks Pujadas for help with this verb)

Pujadas: In your book, you say that though you’re on the Left, you have a head for the Right in certain areas. If you were in France, would you be in Sarkozy’s party or the Socialist Party?

Blair: It’s a question I shouldn’t answer even in French. I’m always on the left and I support the parties of the Left. Even in America I’m a Democrat and if i were in France I’d be a member of the Socialist Party.  But it’s not about that, it’s having a vision of the Left about taking power in your hands and changing the country.

Pujadas: You would be in the Socialist Party but only to change the Socialist Party?

Blair: It has to change. Because we have had a great defeat and we have to ask why and in the modern world it’s absolutely necessary to change. Look, I won’t go into Pension Reform because I know it’s a long question for you, but in general, in principle, it’s the Left that should change the system because the system has to change. If we see now power shifting to the east. (10.25: He gets ouest-west and est-east mixed up and loses his train of thought) Asia. You must be mad if you don’t understand in a world of change we have to change. It’s simple. If you’re a modern politician who lives in the 21st century.

(Here at 10.54 he’s not happy with his answer and sheepishly apologises “Pas bien expliqué”)

Pujadas: No, no, don’t worry, we understood perfectly the idea. Anyway, the British Press, highlights and criticises the fortune you’ve made since leaving office, directorships and public speaking… (Blair interrupts: “It’s a bit exaggerated all that!) Have you become a businessman?

Blair: No! I am totally for public service and I would have liked to continue as Prime Minister, and as I just said, I would have been very happy as EU President. If I don’t have a conventional political job (he says “job” as a false-friend) i have to pursue my passions in other ways. I have my faith foundation and I do a lot for faith and peaceful coexistance, my Middle East Peace Envoy job and a lot of things for which I’m not paid.

Pujadas: Another thing in your book was the difficulties of power and you speak sincerely about alcohol in a very direct way. (Quoting) “Every night, I remember I was drinking sometimes whisky or half a bottle of wine.” Was power so bad as that? (He sounds a bit sarcastic, in my opinion)

Blair: I wanted to reflect in my book how you’re really a human being, despite all these global events and I want people to discover (conjugation trouble from playing with the subjunctive) what are the feelings of being a human in this position. I’m normal, I’m a man like other men.

Pujadas: You also talk about religion and politics, saying “I’ve always had more passion for religion than politics” do they resemble each other?

Blair: Yes, I think this will be a century of ideology, but more religious and cultural than political. The 20th century was a century of fundamental political ideology and great conflict, but conflict in this century will be more of culture, perhaps of religion. I want to be careful on this question because I am someone of faith and it’s something that motivates me.

Pujadas: Last thing, looking back at the ten years in power, were they more toughening or softening?

Blair: It’s difficult to answer. I think I’m a bit wiser, perhaps a bit sadder.

Pujadas: More cynical?

Blair: Cynical? Certainly not.


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