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towards a transformed social democracy

While traditional social democracy is out of breath, Ségolène Royal has mixed together a melting pot of ideas scaled up through the participative campaign and proofed with a policy mix of the English, Nordic and Mediterranean social models, adapted to the French context. The Spanish and Swedish models have been of particular inspiration for her as have the practices from the Socialist run regions, which fed into the manifesto:
* launchpad-jobs for young people
* targeted innovation funds for SMEs
* proofing funding for companies on the proviso they didn’t outsource
* a professional social security
* generalised use of micro-finance to reduce the debt
* participative budgeting of local services
* doubling of the environmental and cultural budget

If we compare then the proposals put forward by both Sarkozy and Royal on the “burning issues” of the election, we can get a better picture of what’s at stake for the French electorate.

Work, rest and play: taking on the workers

Ségolène incentivises employees by increasing the minimum wage, rewards them by increasing the state pension and protects them by ensuring transition between work for the unemployed through a liveable redundancy. Nicolas encourages workers to work more during the day and over their lifespan. This "right to work more" means employers won't be taxed on overtime work, therefore transferring the burden of paying for public services to the employee. It also means workers will be able to retire when they want, which again transfers the decision of when to retire to the employer without incentivising them to employ older people, or fining them for discrimination.

Housing: the new frontier

To ensure everyone across France benefits from the same right to social housing, the PS will build many more social homes but will also empower councils to claim vacant properties. To tackle what is one of the greatest insecurities across Europe - housing - it also proposes to cap private renting and grant a lifelong guarantee of housing. Sarkozy professes that “every Frenchman should be an owner”, laudable per se but which will exacerbate social exclusion - the "happy few" that are in social housing will be able to buy their homes...if they can afford it...This isn't surprising given how leaders of right-wing councils across France prefer to pay fines than provide social housing, but it will bulldoze the availability of social homes.

Probably the most controversial policy is that instead of providing homeless units, Sarkozy will give homeless people the right to take their council to court if they don't provide temporary housing - meaning that if they can afford a lawyer and wait the five years it takes for the legal procedure, they might just be able to sleep under a roof. He also wants to apply this to admissions for nurseries, schools and retirement homes, which given how long court cases can take are inappropriate at the least.


While Ségolène wants to engage under-used army officers to guide and train young offenders in civic activities, Sarkozy wants to toughen sentences for juveniles and increase prison sentencing for repeat offenders, exacerbating the over-populated prison crisis.


Ségolène plans to give residency papers for those who meet certain criteria such as job contract, time in France, ensuring legal stability and economic benefit for and from immigrants. Sarkozy plans to pursue selective immigration that favours arrival of qualified workers, increasing the brain drain in developing countries, while using positive discrimination to tick the boxes.

Sustainable development: looking for a brighter future

Ségolène proposes to reduce dependence on nuclear power and ensure 20% of energy is from renewables by 2020, while Sarkozy wants to increase nuclear dependence (already at 70% of France's energy supply). While Sarkozy wants to simplify CAP and link funding to market prices, Ségolène wants to integrate wide scale reform of EU and WTO policy to focus on environmental excellence and smaller farmers in Europe and developing countries.

France and the world: the debate continues

Ségolène realises that while a renegotiated treaty is essential to reform the European Union, it can only be done with and through the citizens. While those in the PS who were for or against the Constitution may disagree on the content of the treaty, all agree that if we don't involve citizens in shaping it, then why would they vote for it? This was the key lesson learnt by the PS both in their defeat in 2002 and the no vote in 2005 - could the participative concept be adapted to involving citizens across Europe in scaling up their needs and ideas to shape a new treaty? Sarkozy prefers the traditional method of pushing a “mini treaty” through the parliament back-door, in itself a novelty as during the UMP government; most legislation has been forced through by decree.

The economy: incentives and exemptions

Contrary to popular thought, the PS will not increase general taxation and in fact will lower the tax burden on companies that create jobs. Sarkozy proposes to reduce GDP by 4%, twice as much as what Thatcher achieved in her tenure and will exempt up to 95% of population from inheritance tax. Royal will finance her proposals through economic growth, while Sarkozy will finance it through cutting public services.

It’s the narrative, stupid

Many of the issues that dominated the campaign this year then are in areas in which PS succeeded the most while in power last time round. Indeed during the Socialist government, unemployment decreased by a third, spending power doubled, the national debt was stabilised, the debt of the social security decreased, productivity increased. The PS got the policies right but got the narrative wrong – perception of fear and insecurity rose to such a level that everything else was wiped out of people’s memory. What about this time round?



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