Hollande’s attack on Sarkozy’s ‘boucs émissaires’ strategy: lessons for Labour
Martine Aubry, a big player in Francois Hollande’s presidential campaign, gave a newspaper interview yesterday. It marked a real step forward for the campaign, but I hope it will also embolden the British Labour party.
Central to the interview is Aubry’s attack on Sarkozy’s scapegoating strategy:
Avec son interview au Figaro Magazine, M. Sarkozy commence sa campagne de 2012 comme il a gouverné depuis 2007: en voulant désigner des boucs émissaires - les chômeurs, les étrangers, les homosexuels, les professeurs, la gauche…- qui seraient les responsables de tous les maux du pays. Une nouvelle fois, il cherche à diviser les Français au lieu de les rassembler.
[Trans: With his interview in Le Figaro, Sarkozy begins his 2012 campaign as he has governed since 2007: by creating scapegoats - the unemployed, foreigners, gays, teachers, the left - whom he would have us believe are responsible for all that is wrong with the country. Once again, he seeks to divide the French people instead of bringing them together].
Sarkozy’s interview in Le Figaro (a key rightwing newspaper) does indeed reflect a lurch for the dog whistle, as he tries to shore up his vote against Le Pen’s Front National, which may not yet be surging but certainly isn’t retreating as a threat to Sarkozy even making the second round (assuming Le Pen makes it onto the ballot paper with the 500 nominations she needs). His suggestion that allowing immigrants from outside the EU to vote would result in “des cantines scolaires hallal” (Halal school canteens) all over France, for example, gives us a pretty good indication of the votes he’s pitching for.
The Sarkozy interview is also notable for the quite bizarre idea that if re-elected he might put vocational education (formation professionelle) policy to a full referendum, and when the interviewer then follows up with two questions about whether other matters would need a referendum, it feels as though he’s mocking Sarkozy. It’s so odd a move that even the Daily Mail has noticed.
Sarkozy may be getting desperate already, so it can be argued that it’s all easy enough for the Hollande campaign team, and that they can well afford (and need) to court the leftwing vote even at the expense of the few that might go missing as a result of their approach. Even so, it’s good to see Aubry, on Hollande’s behalf, calling out Sarkozy so directly on his scapegoating strategy.
From a British left perspective, there is inevitably a sense of regret that the Parliamentary Labour Party lacks the confidence, as yet, to speak out firmly on the right side of the argument. As I said back in July:
If Labour keeps on trying to scare the shit out people on things like crime and immigration, as a way of getting Labour votes, it’s making a big mistake; it’s really just doing the Tories’ job for them*.
Hopefully, as Hollande maintains his lead and goes on to become President, Miliband and team will learn that constant rightwards triangulation is less effective as a route to electoral success than doing the right thing.
*George Monbiot made much the same point last week, claiming that only he and Charlie Brooker had realised what was going on (perhaps he’s just not reading the right blogs):
Confronted with mass discontent, the once-progressive major parties, as Thomas Frank laments in his latest book Pity the Billionaire, triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate, muzzled by what he calls “terminal niceness”. They fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism.