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French farce | 21 April 2012

The first round of the French presidential election is a national carnival that seldom disappoints. If Sunday’s vote follows the opinion polls, only President Nicolas Sarkozy with 28 per cent of the vote and his Socialist party opponent François Hollande (a predicted 27 per cent) will remain in the ring. The country will then be

A mayor for Whitehall

Siobhan Benita’s sanctimonious and mystifying bid to run London Ken Livingstone wept last week at the launch of his election broadcast, but when it comes to narcissistic self-pity, he’s been outdone by Siobhan Benita. ­Benita’s the other candidate in the London mayoral contest, the one who isn’t Boris or Ken or Brian or that Green

Job scheme

Chris Grayling’s job is to make sure that British people can get jobs. But he faces a problem. Since the election, 90 per cent of the rise in employment is accounted for by foreign-born workers. As Employment Minister, Grayling is painfully aware that there is a very large difference between importing workers and creating jobs.

Rings of steel

Last August I was intrigued to learn that the cash-strapped Cornwall county council was spending hundreds of pounds advertising for a ‘project officer’ at £400 a week to assist in ‘the successful delivery of the Olympic Torch Relay in May 2012’. The lucky applicant’s job would be ‘to raise awareness of this event throughout Cornwall’,

To your health

Fredericksburg, Virginia The huge popularity of your TV show Doc Martin here in the US has nothing to do with the balmy Cornish setting. What really turns us on are the scenes in the Doc’s surgery, where no one ever pays a bill. Contrast that with the bedlam of an American doctor’s office. A panicky

Gove’s paradox

By any standards, the Education Secretary is good news for history. He knows the subject, he likes the subject, and his ‘English Baccalaureate’ is already producing a marked upturn in pupils studying the past. Sadly, Michael Gove is also a Conservative — and a deeply ideological one at that. He has a certain vision of

The tide turned

A couple of years ago, a rescue operation was recorded at a lifeboat station in Poole, Dorset. ‘The boat was launched at 13.35p.m. following a call that a man and two children were stranded on rocks in the vicinity of Lulworth Cove. The wind was south-south-west force three. Visibility good. We reached the scene at