So it is with amusement that I read the denunciation of Mr Cameron by Monsieur Joffrin of Le Nouvel Observateur.
Joffrin’s piece has a decidedly eye-catching headline: “F*** Cameron!” it says – in English. Yes, that got me reading. I know the French have a rather more relaxed attitude to swearing in public than we have but I do think that’s a bit strong. Cameron, according to Joffrin, is guilty of aristocratic arrogance, sarcasm, haughtiness and various other unpleasant characteristics that give us Brits a bad name.
And the reason for this vituperation? It’s that Cameron has said, partly in jest, that Britain will roll out the red carpet for any wealthy French citizens who wish to escape here from the monstrous tax regime proposed by France’s new socialist leader, Monsieur Hollande. They can join the 300,000 or more French people already living and working in the UK (it’s actually London, which doesn’t really count as England or Britain, but let that pass). And they can bring all their lovely dosh with them.
Whenever we get rich people in Britain saying they’ll leave the country if taxes go up or the wrong people get voted in, the general response is “close the door on your way out.” In France it appears to be the opposite. For M. Joffrin this is about patriotism. French money should stay in France. How dare the perfidious British “sabotage” the will of the French people by stealing its wealth-makers and slapping the greedy hand of the state away from their money?
M. Joffrin should keep up with the times. Patriotism is dead, surely, a relic of history laid to rest by the solidarity of our borderless continent? Has he not heard of the European Union, of the free movement of peoples, goods and services? Has he not hearkened to the words of (one of) the Union’s presidents, Van Rompuy, that the “homogenous nation state” is finished?
Has he not worked out why, if the UK is in such dire economic conditions as he makes out, so many of his compatriots have decamped here that London constitutes France’s sixth largest city – just not in France? The French may have the political upper hand in this unholy Union, because of their alliance with Germany, but nothing, it seems, can eradicate their deep-seated sense of inferiority to the British.
Joffrin invokes the memory of William Pitt and the French Revolution in his diatribe. Not the right thing when you think about it. The Revolution led first to The Terror and then to dictatorship and 20 years of war in Europe. Which ended in the defeat of France. By the money-grubbing British.