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March 28, 2006

Two countries, two styles of protest

Watching the rioting in Paris, it's interesting to compare the level of dissent in the Place de la Republique with that in Britain today, on what some of the Unions are calling the biggest strike in 80 years.

Demographics seem to be playing a big part – in Paris there's very few people over the age of thirty in the crowd, whereas in Britain the majority of public service workers on strike are well over that age.

In Paris, it's difficult to tell who the real protesters are. Are they the students protesting that they face unemployment upon graduating? Or are they unemployed people from the suburbs, suferring from longer-term problems?

I suspect the students began the protest, but it has been hijacked by those angry at the economic poverty which affects many of the less-well educated.

Here in the UK, those concerned about long-term economic problems are the peaceful ones. There is no real concern about short-term crises, except amongst city bankers and stockbrokers. This is testament to the economic stability we have achieved, whilst maintaining good levels of growth and employment.

Sadly for the French, the 'thoughtful' protesters seem to be trying to battle against the Atlanticist model which has worked so well for the past 10–12 years in the UK. So while the short-termists may be the ones that the French government will have to listen to, they are also more naive than the long-termists who have been driven to violence.

P.S. Doidge's political prediction: de Villepin will be out by the end of the week…


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