Bernard Henry-Ivy

The French Left has much to learn from the English

Blairism may have had its day on this side of the Channel, but Bernard-Henri Lévy says that the English Third Way should be a model to his Gallic comrades

Blairism may have had its day on this side of the Channel, but Bernard-Henri Lévy says that the English Third Way should be a model to his Gallic comrades

French Socialists are extraordinary. For the past ten years, they have made ‘Blairism’ their foil, even declaring that it embodies exactly what the Left — and in particular, their Left — must not be.

They see in Blairism the quasi-diabolical incarnation of the betrayal of the very ideals they claim to embody. They disavow former English Prime Minister Tony Blair and call his domestic policies ‘Thatcherism with a human face’. They insult his foreign policy, which they believe was driven by a servility to US President George W. Bush and, they assert, should disqualify him from presiding over the European Union once the Lisbon Treaty is ratified.

In 1997, in Malmo, Sweden, during the Congress of the Party of European Socialists, the French delegation was preoccupied with the question of who would be the best substitute for Blair and his horrendous ‘Third Way’ policy.

When Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a Social Democrat, signed a manifesto for a Third Way and a ‘new centre’ in June 1999, in preparation for the European elections, the French Socialists rushed to be the first to repudiate it.

When Ségolène Royal was interviewed by the Financial Times during her campaign for the French presidency, and tried to say that perhaps not all of Blair’s ideas should be rejected out of hand — for example, his policies on public service, youth employment and security — she was immediately chastened by the volley of sarcastic comments she received from her Socialist party colleagues and backed away from her comments.

And even in 1995, when Jacques Delors considered running as the Socialist candidate to replace François Mitterrand as president of France, he withdrew because he was a ‘Blairist’ and he knew ‘Blairism’ was a bad word, virtually an insult to the party whose support he would have had to seek.

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