Sunday, May 6, 2007

France & The BBC's Lament

In America, our news outlets will not report on the unofficial results of voting prior to the close of the voting stations. There are several reasons for that, not the least of which are that it has often proven incorrect, and two, it holds at least some potential to influence the ongoing vote. This makes what the BBC is doing all that much more comically pathetic.

France is undergoing a revolution of sorts. Nicholas Sarkozy is the son of a Hungarian immigrant, a conservative politician who believes in capitalism, law and order, and who has an appreciation fo the United States. He is all things that the leftist elitists at the BBC - the same people who have kept a picture of Bush with a Hitlerian mustache on the wall of their newsroom - would naturally despise (see here). And to make matters worse, he has a commanding lead over the doctrinaire leftist darling, Segolene Royal.

Just days ago, local elections saw the Brits swing wildly towards the conservative party. And now France, that bastion of anti-americanism, is about to follow suit on a national level. I would not be surprised if, in the BBC newsroom, they are pumping in funeral music at the moment. This is all just too much for the Beeb. Thus, even while French polling stations remain open, it is no surprise to find this article on the BBC's web. Nominally a news piece, it seems much more a barely disguised forlorn cry for France to come to its senses and vote Royal for all the most important reasons. But you decide:

French voters bucking trends

By Henri Astier
BBC News, Montmartre, Paris

But early on election day, people were flocking to the area's polling stations to choose the country's new president.

"Turnout has been exceptional," says polling officer Nathalie, 46, who would not give her full name.

"We had 87% during the first round and we're doing equally well, if not better, today."

John Berrebi, a 45-year-old stage actor, is among those who woke up early to cast his vote - which is going to socialist candidate Segolene Royal.

"I don't want [centre-right leader Nicolas] Sarkozy, his social ideal is America. That doesn't suit me. France is not a violent society like the US."

Mr Berrebi is not alone in voting out of hostility towards the tough former interior minister.

Patricia Sterling, 54, says she is voting Ms Royal "by default".

"Sarkozy speaks well - but his unspoken message is frightening. His ideas are racist."

Credibility issue

According to Collin Thierry, 35, a cinema projectionist, "Segolene's policies are much more tolerant and humane than Sarkozy's."

Mr Thierry objected to Mr Sarkozy's "brutal" decisions, such as the expulsion of illegal immigrants and the closure of the Sangatte camp for immigrants in northern France.

Mr Sarkozy, he says, is "a sleek version" of far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

But the centre-right candidate does have his supporters in Montmartre - both among older residents and the young professionals contributing to the rapid gentrification on the area.

"He has credibility and you can trust him," two women pensioners say. "He does not change his opinion all the time the way Segolene Royal does."

Florence, a 30-year-old mother and human resources worker, says: "Sarkozy's programme is coherent and his policies are properly costed. He wants to make people are responsible for their own lives."

"I agree with most of his proposals," says Stephane, 31, an engineer. "He is strong on the economy and on law and order."

Radical change?

One of the reasons for the high turnout is the sharp contrast in the basic values embodied by the two candidates - continuity v change.

. . . Now these positions are largely reversed. Many voters are choosing Segolene because she has pledged not to force root-and-branch reforms.

"I want things to change, but not too fast," says Kathy Sylla, 20. "And that is why I am voting for Segolene. Sarkozy is too radical."

Conversely, this willingness to shake things up is precisely what attracts many to Sarkozy.

"He stands for reform against conservatism," says James Lellouche, 37, a manager.

"He will take on public sector workers whose jobs are secure whether or not they work, and who paralyse the country when their privileges are questioned."

Centre ground

Some voters - especially among those attracted to centrist ideas - find it difficult to choose between the two frontrunners.

Felicien Boncenne, 27, who works for a sports website, was turned off by the campaigns they both ran.

"The way they used advertising techniques and drafted in entertainment stars bothered me," he says.

In the end, however, Mr Boncenne cast his vote for Ms Royal - reflecting the choice of a plurality of voters in Montmartre.

"Sarkozy is too close to big money," he explains. "And it's about time we had a woman president."

Do read the entire article here - and savor the plaintive wails one can almost hear coming from the BBC's newsroom. To paraphrase Bram Stoker as his main charachter was feted to similar sounds: "ahhh, the reporters of the BBC, what sweet music they make."

To my British friends I ask, just when will you finally march on Downing St. and demand that the BBC news division be taken off the public tit?

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