If I were French I would certainly have voted with the winning side. But I’d have done so with very little enthusiasm – and I have some sympathy for the record numbers who either entered spoiled ballot papers or stayed out if altogether.
As in 2002 when France chose “the thief rather than the Fascist” – Jacques Chirac over Jean-Marie Le Pen – this was surely a vote against Marine Le Pen rather than in favour of Emmanuel Macron.
And to look at it for a moment through British eyes, I’m not sure the racist, exclusionist Le Pen is that much worse – or that much different at all – than the leaders we are expected to endorse next month. Or that Macron – though clearly different – is very much better.
He is said to have abundant charm, a quality not much in evidence in UK politics south of the Scottish border. But charm can be a dangerous weapon. Especially when wielded by someone who remains for now something of an unknown quantity, even to those who voted for him.
And Macron is not just – as Le Pen probably accurately dubbed him – the “continuity option”.
There are some very good signs – notably his impassioned support for climate change science and innovation. I want to believe that he is a shining beacon for our future, a charismatic alternative to the Trumpery vilely infecting the world.
But he also appears to embody everything about the European Union that makes me cringe. All the aspects that might have swayed me, against my emotional attachment to Europe, to vote Leave.
Let me make a brief detour to Somerset to explain what I mean.
The “garden city” of Somerdale was opened in 1935 by Cadbury with social and sports facilities, wages and conditions, all well in advance of workers’ expectations elsewhere. Until 2011 it was the production line for such well-known delights as Dairy Milk, Double Decker, Creme Eggs, Crunchie and Fry’s Chocolate Cream.
Then, following the takeover of Cadbury by the US conglomerate Kraft Foods, Somerdale was closed down. The workforce was made redundant, and all the machinery shipped to a new greenfield site in the village of Skarbimierz in western Poland. Which is where your Crunchie and the rest are now made.
At least until another, cheaper workforce is found, perhaps further east – and another EU Special Economic Zone, with cash incentives for companies to move there.
Now, I have nothing against Polish immigrants who come to work here – or those from anywhere else. Though it’s a fact that emigration to Western Europe has led to troublesome skills shortages in some areas like the Baltic.
But I’m not sure how much good is done by exporting not only jobs but whole production lines Especially when the routes, locations and incentives are all devised for the benefit of multinational corporations.
Which brings me back to Macron, a former finance ministry apparatchik with a pedigree in global investment banking. A man who was to be seen recently in his home town, Amiens, trying to explain to striking tumble-dryer manufacturers why their jobs and their factory – like those of the Somerdale chocolatiers – are about to be exported to Poland.
The famous charm calmed them, apparently. For a while. But you can understand why many of those workers might have voted for Le Pen.
Macron is a new and shiny face. But the honeymoon may be brief, especially when he starts swinging the axe over public sector jobs, as he will.
With parliamentary elections to come next month, and no real party of his own, he faces an interesting future. Despite his past membership of the Socialist Party, and his welcome enthusiasm for genuine science, his economic instincts seem closer to those of Margaret Thatcher – or maybe Tony Blair.
His victory over the forces of darkness looked pretty conclusive at the weekend. But there are no guarantees that victory will stick long-term. And then what?
- A couple of scraps of comfort in a generally dismal round of UK local elections – the death of UKIP and the steady rise of the Green Party.
UKIP can now surely be officially deemed an ex-party. Sadly, this because the Tories, in what amounts to a hostile takeover, have made off with all their policies, along with their votes.
So will the BBC now stop pandering to the washed-up Kippers and start to take the Green Party more seriously? The Greens, after all, have been advancing with no help at all from the national broadcaster – which could never be said for the Farage fan club.