It seems perplexing that François Fillon, now the Republican candidate for the French presidency, should be a declared admirer of Margaret Thatcher. Although she certainly has her fans in France, it is an absolutely standard political line — even on the right — that her ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economic liberalism is un-French. Yet M. Fillon, dismissed by Nicholas Sarkozy, whose prime minister he was, as no more than ‘my collaborator’, has invoked her and won through, while Sarko is gone. In this time of populism, M. Fillon has moved the opposite way to other politicians. He says his failures under Sarkozy taught him that France needs the Iron Lady economic reforms which it has never really tried. Against Marine Le Pen’s mixture of left-wing economics and right-wing racial attitudes, M. Fillon’s stance looks both respectable and brave, a rare combination just now.
The Article 50 case has at last woken people up to the power of the Supreme Court. On Monday, at Policy Exchange, I appeared on a panel which included the former Supreme Court judge Lord Hope. He seems a dear and distinguished man, so I felt for him when he complained that current ‘vicious’ press attacks on the judges had gone ‘far too far’. When judges gave lectures these days, their words were ‘picked over’, their sentences ‘taken out of context’. Although he is right that judges should be treated courteously, I was stunned by Lord Hope’s failure to realise that the rudeness they have recently encountered is the inevitable result of their new activist stance as opponents of the executive. By departing from their traditional respect for Parliament and government they enter the thieves’ kitchen of politics and then find they can’t stand the heat. The logic of their conduct is that all their views will be scrutinised and all their appointments challenged by elected representatives, as in the United States.