France Needs Thatcherism - Can Fillon Deliver It?

Thatcherite candidate François Fillon is favourite to win today’s Les Républicains primary run-off vote against centrist Mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppé. Fillon – considered an Anglophile – has spoken of his respect for former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the vital reforms that she and President Ronald Reagan undertook in the 1980s.

M. Fillon spoke at the 2014 Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty, held by the Centre for Policy Studies at the Guildhall in the City of London.

“The media are overwhelmingly on the Left; that’s why it seems like that to you. And our universities are hotbeds of Marxism. But I can feel changes in public opinion. There used to be this unthinking support for public service strikes, because of the nation’s consensus on ever-growing protection in every aspect of people’s lives. We used to favour social justice over liberty. No longer. I feel a real revolt, a desire for more freedom, less State intervention in either economic or private lives. Since the post-war years, France has never had a Thatcherian revolution, or the realistic reforms that Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder achieved in Germany.”

“We started with reforms in 2007. Nicolas Sarkozy lowered taxes then, started a programme of reforms. Then came the financial crisis, and we had to keep things together, save the banks from bankruptcy, govern in a time of recession. The impetus for reform never came back.”

Writing on the prospect of what a Fillon Presidency might look like for CapX, Gaspard Koening said:

In French political debate, “Thatcher” is used in the same way as “the Vichy regime” – as a label that disqualifies an opponent from office forever. Open and avowed Thatcherites in Paris are a fringe movement of degenerate right-wingers, tolerated purely as a sign of open-mindedness, in the same way as advocates of cannibalism or sado-masochism.

“But there Mr Fillon was. All of a sudden, a Gaullist with a fondness for the “French social model” (translation: the transfer of hefty amounts to rent-seeking Baby Boomers) had morphed into an unrepentant free-marketeer, promising to slash taxes and liberalise the labour market with a forcefulness that would make the IMF blush.

Free-markeeters should not be too optimistic though. As Bill Wirtz wrote recently for CapX:

“Before we get too excited about Fillon’s free-market credentials, note that his spending cuts will be offset by a 2 per cent increase in sales tax. His win may also derive more from his social conservatism than his economic liberalism: he supports the War on Drugswants an annual cap on immigration, would like to ban the burkini, and backs reintroducing mandatory sentencing in criminal law cases.

“Also, Fillon was Sarkozy’s prime minister from 2007 to 2012, a period marked by tax increases and a massive bank bailout.”

Emmanuel Macron, former Socialist Prime Minister, has also announced he will be a candidate in next year’s election after quitting the hugely unpopular left wing party. Wirtz believes he also provides some cheer for the growing sense of liberalism in France.

“Macron opened up the inter-city bus market, a measure that created competition on the market, lowered transportation costs and created 13,000 private sector jobs.

“He also reformed labour regulations regarding work on Sundays: not only by extending the exceptions made to allow businesses to open on Sundays, but also by increasing the total number of permits granted by local authorities.”

Date Added: Sunday 27th November 2016