Here we are at the moment of truth, if such a term can be applied to a French referendum. Last time round, the result was swung by boxes of Oui votes flown in from France’s ex-colonies. This time la France outre-mer has been deluged with money from Brussels. (Where does Brussels get the money? Where do you suppose?) In London, the City’s spread-betters have been making the result too close to call. The best we can say is that, when the photo-finish is developed, France may actually have voted Europe’s new constitution down and dispatched it to the mortuary. From Whitehall comes a warning, faithfully relayed in the Financial Times, that saying Non would overshadow Britain’s presidency of the European Union. That should rally the marginal voters, if anything can. Short of that, a Non vote could always be explained away as tactical, or as proof of Kenneth Clarke’s law: in a referendum, you ask people what they think about bimetallism, and they say ‘Throw the rascals out.’ Meanwhile the euro is awaiting the result with visible anxiety. The constitution was meant to be part of the glue that would hold Europe’s single currency together. Another adhesive was the Stability and Growth Pact, but that has now melted away, conveniently for Italy, which to nobody’s surprise turns out to have been in breach of the pact’s rules for years. With no pact and no constitution behind it, the euro would be uncomfortably dependent on faith and political will. My advice to the French is unchanged — votez Non, votez souvent — and when the Dutch vote, four days later, their course will be equally clear. Stem Nee, stem vaak!
Working from home
A thoughtful letter reaches me from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors: Dear Mr Fildes, It’s 2007 and business has never been better — that is, if I’ve taken RICS’s course and become a home inspector.