Macron emboldened France’s increasingly hateful Left

President Emmanuel Macron raised the spectre of Right-wing control of France by calling the unnecessary parliamentary elections whose second round was held in France on Sunday. His convoluted behaviour has now raised the opposite spectre – Left-wing control of France.

Thanks to the agreement between Macron’s party and the New Popular Front of the Left, specially formed for the occasion, the Left won the most seats in the latest vote. The pact meant that each gave the other a clear run in agreed seats. In some places, voters who opposed Marine Le Pen’s National Rally had no alternative but candidates from the hard-Left France Unbowed party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Following the enormous rise in attacks on Jews in France after the Hamas massacres on October 7 last year, Mélenchon declared that anti-Semitism in France was “residual”, a word which defies the facts. Mass protests against Israel’s attacks in Gaza have frequently featured anti-Semitism. Currently, two teenage boys in France are charged with racially insulting and raping a 12-year-old Jewish girl.

If any anti-Semitism is residual, it is that of the National Rally. It still pops up in individual candidates, but Mme Le Pen has unequivocally condemned the Hamas attacks. It is now largely the far-Left, not the far-Right, which pushes an anti-Semitic narrative. In critical race theory, Jews cannot be the victims of racism, since racism is defined as a white vice. Since they are “white”, they must be racists.

Behind the approach of France Unbowed is a cold numerical calculation. Muslims – Arabs, black Africans or Turks – are the demographic future there. Their grievances present a unique opportunity for the Left, which long since lost the white working class. Much Islamist political discourse is anti-Semitic and almost all of it is anti-Israel. The Palestinian flag has replaced the old red and black ones in Leftist demos.

One might have thought – and certainly hoped – that the atrocities of October 7 would have turned the world against Hamas. On the contrary, they have impressed many on the Left with their terrifying power. Mélenchon, an eloquent revolutionary demagogue, clearly sees much profit in this turmoil.

The National Rally, for the same reasons reversed, increasingly sees Jews as part of the French culture they seek to defend against Islamist attack. President Macron, who is more clever-clever than wise, hopes to out-manoeuvre the extremes, but he may, unintentionally, be fanning the flames.

Where France leads, Britain might follow, though luckily our home-grown Mélenchon, Jeremy Corbyn, is much more boring than the French Lenin. Our Muslim population is roughly two thirds that of France, and our general election last week showed Islamism on the march, winning a few seats and even threatening Sir Keir Starmer in his own patch. It is his enemy within.

Unblock growth, not kickstart it

Rachel Reeves, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, says she wants to “kickstart” growth. The word is an unhelpful cliché.

The verb to “kickstart” is defined by Oxford Languages as to “start (a motorcycle engine) with a downward thrust of a pedal”; “as in older motorcycles”, it adds. Politicians like the word because it sounds tough and instant. Precisely for that reason, it is inappropriate.

As Liz Truss quite recently proved, growth rarely happens because of a sudden kick. A modern, sophisticated economy is not like an old motorcycle. A better simile would be that of a once-fertile field which has lost its ready access to the road and is now choked with weeds. It is chiefly governments which blocked the access, thus letting the weeds take over. They can unblock it, if they choose, without kicking anything or anybody.

Another cliché politicians love to deploy is that they are “laser-focused” on something or other. Lasers do not, in fact, focus. That is what lenses do.

Racing unites the British Isles

Perhaps taking advantage of the outrage against Tories using inside knowledge to bet on the date of the general election, the BBC recently announced the end of the Today programme’s daily racing tips. As various eminent persons, such as Jilly Cooper, Michael Owen and Ben Wallace, have pointed out in a letter of protest, the decision was “unnecessarily puritanical”. It is also slightly unpatriotic, since racing is a sport at which Britain excels. Betting on racing is one of the few pastimes on which we lose money enjoyably.

In the past, I have harboured a slight objection to Today’s racing tips. It was not that they were pretty bad – that is entirely traditional. It is that they allowed the BBC to cover the sport itself less in other ways.

I now see that I was wrong. The removal of the tips is not making room for fuller coverage of racing. Instead, it is making yet more time for football, which is already covered much more extensively than a Radio 4 audience wants.

The BBC’s lack of interest in racing is a subset of its metropolitan approach. Of its nature, the sport cannot thrive in cities. British racecourses are objects of local pride, well distributed over the country, as their evocative names – Market Rasen, Musselburgh, Down Royal, Newton Abbot, Bangor-on-Dee – remind us. It is also a sport which unites the British Isles. Racing has done more for Anglo-Irish relations than has power-sharing at Stormont.

This column’s tip (in the non-betting sense of the word) is for the new Government to capitalise on its initial moral authority and gently complain to the BBC. But I fear the odds on this happening are very long.

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