A few days ago, this half-French household got its official mailshot with the full set of candidates’ manifestos, from Sarkozy through to Jean-Pierre Cheminade, plus the kit of polling cards. You might be surprised by the consensus across them. Basically, the political nation has spoken, and what it said was “Piss off, bankers.” Now, the manner in which this sentiment was expressed varied a lot, and the concrete policy proposals to give it effect even more.
Two of the extreme-left candidates who didn’t join Mélénchon’s united front wish to default immediately on the national debt, for example, and they also want to seize the entire banking system by force majeure.
Mélénchon wants to amend the European treaties to explicitly permit central bank financing of the government, and is in general very keen on an inflationary exit from the crisis (is he perhaps a bit of a Modern Monetary Theorist?). He’s also quite keen on narrow banking, as are the extremists. But so are the Greens. And the Front National.
Hollande is strategically vague (as is Sarkozy), but does want to re-open the ECB charter, to regulate the banks more stringently, and to reorganise the various state-owned financial institutions into a national “pole”. The idea of a big public-sector bank is one that basically everybody seems to more or less support, in more or less centralised forms. Mélénchon of course wants a great national institution, presumably with a vast headquarters building somewhere in Paris, either suitably chic on the right bank or else in glass and steel out on the périf. The Greens see it as a network of local mutuals.
Similarly, a flavour of high Keynesianism prevails throughout. Everyone expect Sarko wants a big public works programme, and even he nods in the direction of stimulus. The exact content varies, of course. This threatens to run counter to EU doctrine, and pretty much everyone would like to redesign European institutions, although this is always framed as a demand for more European integration even when (like Mélénchon) it involves getting rid not just of the free movement of capital but even of goods within the EU. He’s actually more protectionist than the FN.
Being anti-nuclear power has been fashionable lately in France, and the manifestos are surprisingly far down that track. Obviously the Greens hate it, but hardly anyone wants to defend it. Hollande, for example, promises to reduce the share of nuclear in the energy mix over time, which seems to mean keeping the nukes and building wind turbines. But that’s as far as anyone will go defending it, with the exception of Cheminade. That one’s a bit of a phenomenon – his manifesto is basically the sort of thing you get on science-fiction blogs on a slow day, all about the vital necessity of developing the world with nuclear power, putting more effort into fusion research, and colonising space. And setting up a new national public sector bank, of course.
On the other hand, even the Greens only offer to suspend work on the development of future nuclear weapons, keeping the existing ones. Everyone seems to be in agreement on keeping the Bomb. Mélénchon wants to decommission the air-launched component and rely (like the UK) exclusively on the submarines, but that’s it. Despite that, the rest of the Green manifesto is very much an 80s classic – apparently all cancers have environmental causes concealed by the pharma lobby, and it’s an urgent priority to serve organic food in all school meals.
And the incumbent? Not much to say, really, except for appeals to authority in these difficult times, and micro-initiatives. But then, that’s the story of Sarkozy’s presidency – it might have worked had he not just managed to be elected in time for Depression 2.0, and the big question since late 2007 has been whether the Socialists would manage to pick a candidate this time out. That story was more exciting than we expected. And it is now at an end.