Election Fever: a View from France

I’ve been quite interested in the run-up to the UK election.  That may come as a surprise to those of you who know me as a not-very-party-political-animal, and as even more of a surprise to UK residents who seem to have been engulfed in non-stop election fever since early March.

For us, access to the election news has been via French radio and television.  We don’t buy the papers very often, but I generally hear a couple of news bulletins a day from France Inter (roughly Radio 4 equivalent), and we often watch the main evening news on France 2 (BBC1-ish channel).  So this scarcely constitutes an academic study of the British elections seen through French eyes.

It’s been quite a surprise to me that for the last couple of weeks, there’s usually been something about the British elections in every main bulletin.  France 2 has had a series of mini-election specials every night.  These have covered everything from SamCam versus Sarah Brown (Sarah Brown won on points, because they had a library photo of her talking to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.  In that particular encounter though, they clearly thought Carla B-S won on points), to the National Front in Barking, to Boris Johnson talking in sub-O Level French (but at least he did it.  I’m old enough to have memories of Ted Heath’s sabotage of the French language back in the 1970’s). Nick Clegg has the French vote sewn up, on account of his fluent French (and Dutch, German and Spanish) – he’s had several interviews on pro-European matters in the French media

Yesterday’s report on France Inter’s lunch time news covered the fact that the polling stations are open from 7.00 a.m. – 10.00 p.m, to accommodate the fact that we vote on a Thursday, a working day, unlike most of the rest of Europe, which has Sunday as Polling Day.  They incorrectly stated too that churches were among the buildings used as polling stations.  Then they went on to explain our first-past-the-post voting system, which they rightly find bizarre.

And today, how much more bizarre it all seems. The first-past-the-post system seems even more unacceptable now that the Liberal Democrat share of the vote is so little behind that of the Labour Party.  It’s impossible to spin it in a positive way to the French who ask about it.  Like most Europeans, the French are more at ease with the idea of multi-party government, and perhaps bemused at the total impasse in which the leaders find themselves.

I thought I was going to see the election story out to the end on this blog.  I’ve a feeling that could involve a very long wait, though.  Here is the unfinished article

4 thoughts on “Election Fever: a View from France”

  1. I’m reading your blog after too much caffeine and too little sleep this morning; last night was a write off in the sleep department. We got home from our count at 3am and then watched the TV for 3 more hours, slept for 4 and then got up to take posters down, write thank you letters etc. and have a very long conversation with our son in Penang who freely admitted he’d not done a stroke of work yesterday as he had his lap top tuned into the BBC news all the time he was supposed to be teaching chemistry and he spent his free periods texting me at the count! This election, thanks to the TV debates and the Clegg factor has raised the level of voter registration and political awareness to a level I can’t remember. People usually talk politics to me when I’m the candidate but general elections normally go un remarked in casual conversation; not so this year. We’re now into post match analysis but no-one really knows what to say! We’re all waiting. The left of centre alliance which so many of us wanted seems not to have enough substance in terms of voter support. Locally we bucked the trend. Our LibDem increased her share of the vote in a very safe Tory seat and we took Eastbourne but very mixed elsewhere. Thoughts now turn to next year’s local elections and a long awaited long weekend in Aigues-Vives in June when we hope to catch up with friends.

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    1. Well, we sat up all night too. I grabbed an hour or so at 1.30 French time, then my son texted to say Harrogate had gone down, and that was it, I was hooked to BBC World on TV. So depressing. Can’t guess what the outcome will be, but whatever, it seems almost bound to lead to another election sometime soon, and lots of bitterness. Roll on June, eh?

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    1. Well! Blow me! And I DID try to check that what I was saying was correct! Is that because the church hall below, where the children went when they were Brownies, Guides, Scouts and similar isn’t exactly disabled-access friendly? We used to vote in Charlie Cake Park, that little hut.

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