The Nick and Jacques show
continues, and if you’re interested in those two, I encourage you to read this week’s article at The Economist, currently available in newstands. They start by saying, As Nicolas Sarkozy takes over Jacques Chirac’s party, it signals the beginning of a battle of ideas over the future of France. There’s also the Economist’s op-ed article, Sarkozy versus Chirac: Can a new France emerge from the old?
Yet Mr Sarkozy brings fresh ideas. He is as close to a liberal as is possible in a country where Communists are considered part of the centre-left mainstream. He does not shy from subjects avoided in polite (secular) society: the place of religion, the compatibility of Islam with western democracy, the erosion of the work culture, the perils of the wealth tax. He has an uncomplicated approach to America, in favour of restoring warmer relations and ending unnecessary hostility.
Mr Sarkozy’s ascent comes at a fluid time in French politics. A split is opening up on the left as well as the right. On December 1st, the Socialist Party votes on whether to back Laurent Fabius, its number two, in rejecting the European Constitution in next year’s referendum. If it does, this could tear the left in two—and even lead to France voting no to the constitution. Mr Fabius has tapped into an uncomfortable popular sentiment that an enlarged Europe is drifting out of France’s grasp.
In short, this is a time of introspection, about France, and its influence in the world. Mr Sarkozy does not have all the answers, and some of his answers are wrong. But he is stirring a welcome debate about how a New France might look.
Welcome debate, that’s a start.