Mon Jun 18th, 2007 at 05:16:15 AM EST
My first read on ET was Jerome's excellent post France is not in decline, impressed by further reading on this website since has lead me to finally posting my own perspective. Though i'm not an economist i have spent many years living in the UK and have recently moved to France so i can give a personal opinion on the two countries.
What was most striking of the UK press coverage of the French election was the repeated mantra that the UK economic model was superior to the tired French social model. It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that well paid London based journalists are disconnected from the realities of life in UKplc. But surely the guardian journalists are aware of the view of their economic's editor, Larry Elliott, on the Blair/Brown legacy. (taken from Guardian Larry Eliott)
Where does the UK fit in this world of changing economic geography, in which nations will increasingly concentrate on the things they do best? The answer is simple. We count the money and we do the bullshit.
From the diaries - afew
The theme of Eliott's convincing argument is that while the British media and politicians portray the country as a vibrant knowledge based economy the reality is that
The four iconic jobs in 21st-century Britain, according to a thinktank called the Work Foundation, are not scientists, engineers, teachers and nurses but hairdressers, celebrities, management consultants and managers.
there are at least four million people "in service" and the proportion of the population employed by the well-off to do their cooking, cleaning, childcare and gardening is as high as it was in the 1860s.
So with not too dissimilar unemployment levels (illustrated in Jerome's thread) why arent they rioting in the UK as they have done in France (often reported in smug tones by sections of the British media). The reasons for this must be numerous, such as the fact that effective civil disobedience has effectively been crushed since the miner's strikes in the Thatcher years. This was evidenced in the pre Iraq war demos which saw a million people take to the streets of London with little or no effect. Also unlike the Parisien Banlieues, the areas of vast unemployment in the UK are mostly in the industrial north and midlands, almost a case of out of sight out of mind for most London opinion makers.
But how long can this continue as Britains "liberalised" labour laws mean more and more working class jobs are done by subsistence pay illegal immigrants?
Work is easily available to those willing do anything at any price. That is what makes our immigration policy bogus. The government turns a blind eye, almost alone in the European Union without a proper work inspectorate. The UK refuses to sign the EU agency workers' directive that clamps down on abuse of "flexible" employees. Our gangmasters' law, passed after the cockle-pickers tragedy, only covers agriculture, not the cleaning, catering and hotel work where agencies for illegals thrive.
Probably until either of the unstable twins of the British economy, the inflated housing market driven consumerism and the city of London, falter.
With this model held up as something for France to aspire to one can only hope that Sarkozy's admiration of all things Anglo-Saxon is another media myth.
I didnt want this diary to descend into a rant against the UK but on reflection it looks as if it has. Despite this i spent many enjoyable years living there and found it a great place to live for someone young and free of dependents. In comparison with France people seemed much more open to change and were not fixated on securing a job for life leading both employees and employers more willing to take chances. However the Thatcher/Blair legacy is only widening the gap between rich and poor in my view.
So i think theres many things both countries could look to each other on what to do and not do. Sadly i dont see that happening among mainstream media and politicians who seem more interested in pushing tired cliches about one another.
But discovering this website has renewed my faith that maybe people across Europe and beyond can discuss progressive ideas which may help us through the coming challenges of climate change and peak oil.