One of my favourite French words is bouleversement. It means disruption or upheaval. Zidane’s head-butt in the 2006 World Cup final represented bouleversement for the French team. When Parisian bakers were allowed to go on holiday whenever they wanted for the first time in 2015, there was (perhaps)bouleversement as locals found it harder to buy baguettes. Determined to conserve their culture, their language and their 35-hour week, the French see bouleversements everywhere.
On Sunday 23rd April French voters go to the polls for the first-round of the presidential election. There are eleven candidates facing the voters, and – providing no-one reaches the 50 percent threshold – the top two will go through to the second-round a fortnight later.
“I was the king in the family,” Alain Juppé claimed about his pampered upbringing. On a school trip to Lisbon, pleased to have escaped the family bubble, he was surprised to discover upon arriving that his overprotective parents had made the journey as well to check he was alright.
“France is at war,” declared François Hollande, after last November’s attacks in Paris. Since then, he has had to declare it several more times. It is a strange sort of war. France fights not against a coherent, well-defined enemy, but against a pervasive ideology. The front line is now not just the streets of Paris but provincial cities and even the French countryside. Continue reading What causes someone to become a terrorist? The French debate.
This article was published on Backbench and won IMPACT Article of the Month
France starts a new week in a much more jittery state and darker mood than it started the last. It asks itself: why us? While Islamist terrorism is a much worse scourge in countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, in our Western bubble it is France that has suffered most: from Mohammed Merah’s murderous rampage in Toulouse and Montauban in 2012, to the Charlie Hebdo attacks at the beginning of this year, to Friday’s events. Continue reading thoughts on the Paris attacks
After sudden, brutal, unforeseen disasters we seek answers in order to tell ourselves it will never happen again. We expect to be able to halt nature, that with enough will we can protect ourselves from a callous and uncaring world. After the Labour Party’s defeat, as crushing as it was because it was so unexpected, the temptation is there to prescribe a remedy to cure all ills. The SNP’s tartan tsunami washed away the likes of Douglas Alexander, the party’s election chief. UKIP’s purple tornado swirled across left-behind areas of the country Labour would previously have called its heartlands. Meanwhile, Labour could not thaw through the Tory vote in the South, which remained blue as voters gave the prospect of a Miliband government an icy reception. Now that the battle is lost, the war has broken loose within Labour about how to win lost votes with a shift to the right, or the left; or away from metropolitan values or towards them. Continue reading Labour’s dilemma
A version of this article was published in The Bubble
The displays of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo in France have been heartening. However, outside of this swell of national pride and support, it has this is also given the opportunity for racists of different forms to pose as anti-establishment figures to their disillusioned followers.
Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala is a black French comedian who once used to campaign against racism and stood against the Front National in elections on this platform. He since made friends with Jean-Marie Le Pen and has been in trouble multiple times for anti-Semitism, calling Holocaust remembrance “memorial pornography” and joking about the gas chambers. Funny guy. Depressingly, he has lots of followers, who for example have provided him with hundreds of thousands in donations. At best they do not see his blatant racism as a problem; at worst they like it. Continue reading The other Charlies
Shock all around. Thousands flocked to the main squares of cities, displaying signs declaring je suis Charlie and holding pencils in the air.
The recent murders are the most deadly and by far the most shocking in a series of French Islamist attacks over the past few years. The same magazine was firebombed in 2011. In 2012 Mohammed Merah, from the suburbs of Toulouse, went on a shooting spree in his home city murdering seven people, including three children. He targeted a Jewish school. In May 2013 a solider was stabbed. In May last year a French jihadist murdered four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels, Belgium. Just before Christmas there were two attacks, reportedly motivated by fundamental Islamism, in two days: on the 20th December a Muslim convert tried to stab a policeman in Tours; on the 21st another man injured 11 pedestrians by driving into them. Continue reading Islamism and Charlie Hebdo