PRESIDENT Hollande’s speech and press conference yesterday has been described as a swerve towards the centre akin to Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’.
After the conference, in which he outlined his plans to boost the economy and France’s position in Europe and the world, the French press today made much of his admission in answer to a question that his vision is essentially “social democrat”.
The term refers to a moderate socialism, balancing welfare with capitalism, and the assessment appears borne out by reactions, which included virulent opinions from the traditional left and scepticism from right of centre paper Le Figaro.
Much of the media hailed a new confidence and decisiveness.
His opening words set the tone, as he said: “I have a profound conviction that if France wants to keep its influence in the world, be a heavyweight in Europe and remain master of its destiny, it is imperative it gets back its economic strength – and it has lost some of it over the last 10 years.
“So, what should we do? Go into battle; start a new phase.
“In 2014 the aim isn’t just for France to see economic growth again – that’s starting to happen. This growth needs to be as vigorous as possible, and we won’t see that without getting everyone on board, especially businesses, without which there can be no long-term creation of jobs.”
Central to the speech were details of his “responsibility pact” for business, which he said would: “Lighten charges on businesses, reduce constraints on their activities and in return allow for more hiring and more discussion with the unions”.
A key plank, he said, would be abolishing the family allowance part of business social charges by 2017, to improve profit margins.
He said in the same time frame he would modernise business taxation and reduce the amount of taxes “which sometimes cost more to collect than they bring in”.
Left-wing newspaper L’Humanité stated: “François Hollande will be ‘Medef president’” [referring to the body that represents businesses owners]. “One remains speechless faced with such dishonesty. The head of state has poured cold water on all our hopes.”
The view was echoed by politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Parti de Gauche, who tweeted that “Hollande and [Medef boss] Gattaz are in love” and called for “a large left-wing opposition in parliament and on the streets against this right-wing programme”.
Le Figaro however thought if Hollande had changed direction it was “mostly a matter of words”, and said he had failed to clarify how he would finance the easing of social charges that he announced.
In Libération Fabrice Rousselot hailed a “battle-ready president”, whose words “open a new chapter in his presidency”, while L’Alsace saw “a fighting president, on the offensive, pugnacious and ambitious who has announced a very wide-ranging programme of reforms”.
Libération said he was “freed from hang-ups and hesitations” and had “finally spoken the words we were waiting for”.
Centrist politician Jean-Louis Borloo of UDI said he would back Hollande’s pact as long as it is translated into a law that is “concrete and effective”.
However opposition UMP Party leader Jean-François Copé said Hollande lacked “credibility” because so far he had “done the opposite of what he talked about”.
Photo: Screen shot from France 2