The French left holds its breath

Slightly frustrated by his downbeat assessment, I told Bouvet that the Socialist manifesto showed that Hollande was anything but a bore. It was not just his plan to hit everyone earning over €1m (£824,000) with a 75% tax rate. Every page contained ideas to find work for the unemployed, to provide cheap housing for the young, to punish the shareholders of companies that lay off workers, and to break up dangerous banks. A politician who uttered his views in Britain would be to the left of the Labour party.

Pitying French eyes looked down on me. Someone unfortunate enough to have been born an Anglo-Saxon might regard Hollande as leftwing, my companions conceded. But to leftist French intellectuals he was merely a solid social democrat. A conscientious social democrat, no doubt about it, who would make life better for most French people. But the notion that he was some kind of radical was absurd.

“He just does not give me an erection,” a weary woman explained. I thought about telling her that, in true utopian fashion, she was demanding the impossible, but decided that the English and the French could never understand each other and moved on

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