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POLITICS

‘Build together’: The French government’s to do list for the next five years

France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne outlined on Wednesday the government’s plans for the next five years in her first speech to the National Assembly since June’s legislative elections.

'Build together': The French government's to do list for the next five years
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne addresses MPs at The National Assembly. (Photo: Bertrand Guay / AFP)

After congratulating newly elected deputies, Borne called on opposition parties to work with the governing party to reform, the French having chosen during the last legislative elections not to give them an absolute majority. 

“The French are asking us to take our responsibilities. We will do it. Together we will respond to the challenge of abstention … the demand for action … we will meet the requirement of responsibility,” she said.

“They urge us to do things differently, a sustained dialogue, the active search for compromise. The context obliges us, the war in Ukraine reminds us how fragile peace is”, she continued, also referring to “the ecological emergency which is becoming more present every second”. 

She added: “The French are asking us to talk more, to talk better, to build together.”

Among the challenges facing the government, Borne spoke of “environmental responsibility” and “improving the public accounts”. 

Here are the key points of her speech:

Cost of living

A bill to help French people with the cost of living and improve purchasing power will be the first major piece of government legislation put to the Assembly, on July 18th.

Borne, heckled by a febrile parliament, singled out the abolition of the TV licence, saying it would “save €138 per year for the French. Taxation will be one of our areas of debate, but it can be a subject of compromise.”

Pensions

On pensions, Borne said: “Our social model is a paradox: one of the most generous and one of those where we work the shortest. For the prosperity of our country and the sustainability of our pay-as-you-go system (…) we will have to gradually work a little longer”.

She promise to consult with social partners on pension reform.

Energy

Elisabeth Borne confirms the government’s intention to hold “100 percent of the capital of EDF” – effectively announcing the re-nationalisation of the energy supplier. “We must ensure our sovereignty in the face of the consequences of the war in Ukraine,” she said.

The State already owns about 80 percent of the business.

“This evolution will permit EDF to reinforce its capacities to carry out in the shortest possible time its ambitious and indispensable projects for our future energy” supplies, she added.

Shares in EDF jumped more than five percent higher, having traded down five percent before the prime minister’s speech.

Environment

“As of September, we will launch a vast consultation with a view to an energy-climate orientation law,” Borne said.

The “ecological emergency” is one of the government’s biggest upcoming challenges, she said.

“We will undertake radical transformations in our way of producing, housing, moving, consuming.”

“We will be the first major ecological nation to get out of fossil fuels,” the Prime Minister said, indicating that the government was putting nuclear energy at the heart of its green policy. “It is the guarantee of our energy sovereignty, the preservation of our purchasing power.”

She added that it would also create jobs.

Employment

Borne welcomed France’s improving employment figures, highlighting the success of apprenticeships, training for job seekers and the Un jeune, une Solution scheme. “Our country can get out of the vicious circle of mass unemployment,” she said.

Borne insisted that “full employment and good employment” is “not an illusion, not an unattainable goal” – but is “within our reach”.

Combatting ‘Séparatisme’

The prime minister also prioritised security in her speech, promising that “Separatism and Islamist extremism will be fought.”

As a result, Borne plans to present a bill for the creation of 200 additional gendarmerie brigades throughout the country. She also called for faster court decisions and for victims to be listened to. 

Education

Borne promised to improve teacher salaries, as she pledged “priority action” for schools and young people, and also said the government would continue developing the universal service scheme introduced by Emmanuel Macron during his first term in office.

“During our discussions, I saw another common desire emerge: to build the Republic of equal opportunities”, continues Elisabeth Borne. She assures that President Macron wants to “break the inequalities of destiny to allow everyone to choose their future, to trace the paths of emancipation”.

National debt

Borne set out an objective of reducing France’s national debt by 2026, and bringing the deficit below 3% from 2027.

Housing 

Borne said the question of housing is a major concern for French people and announced that her government has decided to put a ceiling on rent increases, and will work to build new housing.

Inequality 

The prime minister also announced plans to reduce inequality by offering single-parent households with childcare assistance for children up to age 12. Borne also pledged to simplify the student grant system, extend the culture pass from 6ème (age 11-12), and provide 30 minutes of sport for primary school students.

The PM also discussed potential reforms to disability benefits, which are currently partially dependent on spousal earnings.

At the end of a speech that lasted 90 minutes, Borne said that she wanted “to write a new page in the political history” of France. “I pledge never to break the thread of dialogue, to build ambitious compromises. The French have called for responsibility, and we will be there. We all have a part to play, we have everything to succeed. Building together, we will succeed.”

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POLITICS

Revealed: France’s funniest politicians and their best ‘jokes’

Politicians' jokes are more usually met with a groan than a laugh, but France's annual prize for political humour has been awarded - here are the zingers judged the best in 2022.

Revealed: France's funniest politicians and their best 'jokes'

According to the jury on the Press club, Humour et Politique awards, the funniest politician in France is the Communist leader (and 2022 presidential candidate) Fabien Roussel.

His award-winning zinger is: “La station d’essence est le seul endroit en France où celui qui tient le pistolet est aussi celui qui se fait braquer.”

It translates as ‘the petrol station is the only place where the one holding the gun is also the one who is robbed’ – a joke that works much better in French where ‘pistolet’ means both a pistol and the petrol pump. 

On a side note for British readers – Roussel also looks quite a lot like left-wing UK comedian Stewart Lee, so maybe he has funny genes.

Second prize went to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy with his withering assessment of Valérie Pécresse, the candidate for his old party in the 2022 presidential election, who did extremely badly.

“Ce n’est pas parce que tu achètes de la peinture, une toile et des pinceaux que tu deviens Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, elle a pris mes idées, mon programme et elle a fait 4.8 pourcent”

“It’s not because one buys paints, canvas and brushes that you become Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, she took my ideas, my manifesto and she got 4.8 percent of the vote.”

While these two were jokes – in the loosest sense of the word – the prize can also be awarded to politicians who make people laugh inadvertently, such as last year’s winner Marlène Schiappa who, when announcing plans to ban polygamy, felt the need to tell the French, “On ne va pas s’interdire les plans à trois” – we’re not going to outlaw threesomes.

Here’s the full list of finalists for the funniest political joke of 2022 – somehow we don’t think you’re at risk of split sides with any of these.

Ex-Prime minister Edouard Philippe talking about hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon: “Il faut une certaine audace pour que quelqu’un qui a été battu à une élection où il était candidat puisse penser qu’il sera élu à une élection où il n’est pas candidat!”

“It takes a certain audacity for someone who was defeated in an election where he was a candidate to think that he will be elected in an election where he is not a candidate!”

Ex-Assemblée nationale president Richard Ferrand: “Elisabeth Borne est formidable mais personne ne le sait.”

“Elisabeth Borne is great but no-one knows it.”

Ex-Macronist MP Thierry Solère: “Mon anatomie fait que si j’ai le cul entre deux chaises, je suis parfaitement assis.”

“My anatomy means that if I have my ass between two chairs, I am perfectly seated.”

Some information that might be useful for this one – the French phrase avoir le cul entre deux chaises (to have your ass between two chairs) is the equivalent of the English ‘falling between two stools’ – ie a person who cannot make up their mind what or who to support. Further information; Solère is a largish bloke.

Hard-left MP Eric Coquerel: “S’imaginer qu’on va remplacer Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme ça, c’est une vue de l’esprit. C’est comme se poser la question de qui va remplacer Jaurès.”

“To imagine that we will replace [party leader] Jean-Luc Mélenchon like that, is purely theoretical. It is like asking the question of who will replace Jaurès.”

Jean Jaurès is a revered figure on the French left, but not currently very active in politics, since he was assassinated in 1914.

Rachida Dati to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Votre présence au Conseil de Paris est aussi anecdotique que votre score à la présidentielle.”

“Your presence at the Council of Paris is as anecdotal as your score in the presidential election.”

There’s no doubt that Hidalgo did humiliatingly badly in the presidential election with a score of 1.75 percent. Daiti didn’t stand in the presidential elections but she did put herself forward to be mayor of Paris in 2020 and was convincingly beaten by . . . Anne Hidalgo.

So that’s the ‘jokes’, but there were also some entries for inadvertently funny moments.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Tous les matins, je me lève en me disant que tout le monde m’aime.”

“Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that everyone loves me.”

But the undisputed queen of this genre is the green MP Sandrine Rousseau, whose ideas and policy announcements seem to have provoked a great deal of mirth.

Je voudrais qu’il y ait une possibilité de délit de non-partage des tâches domestiques – I would like there to be the possibility of a crime of not equally sharing domestic tasks

Les SDF meurent plus de chaleur l’été que l’hiver – The homeless die from heat more in the summer than the winter

Il faut changer aussi de mentalité pour que manger une entrecôte cuite sur un barbecue ne soit plus un symbole de virilité – We must also change our mentality so that eating a steak cooked on a barbecue is no longer a symbol of virility.

If you prefer your humour a little more scientific, Phd researcher Théo Delemazure has done a study of which politicians and political parties are funniest when speaking in parliament.

He analysed how often speeches raise a smile or a laugh (which presumably includes sarcastic laughter) and concluded that the party that gets the most laughs is the hard-left La France Insoumise.

They are also the party that speaks most often, however, when he calculated the laughter rate per time spent speaking, the prize went to the centre-right Les Républicains.

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