At the French Consulate-General in London, the election is held in the classrooms of the LycÃ©e Charles de Gaulle next door. There are plenty of lycÃ©es named after the general, but this one has a greater connection to him than most – the Free French air force had its headquarters in one of the buildings that now forms part of the school, and it was here in 1940 that suspected collaborators among the French community were dragged in by Andre “Passy” Dewavrin, de Gaulle’s intelligence chief.
Today, the French of London were queueing around the block, in the sense that each side of a double city block was taken up by queues, even though there were a total of three entrances. Such was the crowd that an ice-cream van was attracted to it, far from a bad idea given the number of children present. The people? Probably a population younger and more middle-class than the French averages, although hardly lacking in diversity.
Despite the length of the queues, the voting went swiftly, supervised by smart and harassed volunteers into queues allocated by initials. Inside the schoolyard, which somehow manages to have a vaguely French atmosphere despite being surrounded by 19th century jerrybuilt, 18th century stucco, and interwar London County Council styles, the queues passed the candidates’ posters, displayed in conformity to the law.
Sadly, one was missing, that of GÃ©rard Schivardi. No-one was able to explain this. But they were able to remember that no-one had ever seen such a degree of participation. It took 1hour and 45 minutes to reach the ballot box, but the queues had not diminished at all by 4 o’clock. An appeal had been made for additional volunteers to help with the count.