The kermits have a pretty clear idea of what their President should be like. Above all, he must have dignity; an odd sort of egalitarian hauteur that avoids regality but achieves the separation of un homme consacré from the vulgar, a quality that can carry the weight of the Gloire de France abroad. A real French President would have put Cameron in his place with a false twink of a smile and a superior deprecating pat at the EU summit rather than turning away. A real French President wouldn't need lifts in his shoes or little platforms to stand on. And the wife of a real French President should be dowdy as a peahen, maritorious, and above all silent. In François Hollande they may just have got what they wanted - but if they expect economic salvation, they may be disappointed.
Perhaps the least realistic of Hollande's pledges is that to reduce the retirement age to 60 from a current modest 62. The affordability of the cost of aging is a factor that clearly separates the UK from France; despite our pension black holes, we are comparatively better off. The GAP Index reform strategy guide recommends the following courses of action;
|Reduce public pension benefits||***||***||***||*|
|Reduce health-care cost growth||***||**||**||**|
|Extend work lives||***||**||***||**|
|Increase funded pension savings||***||**||**||*|
|Strengthen poverty floors||0||0||*||*|
|Increase fertility rates||*||***||***||*|
Which suggests they are willing to face future ruin for the sake of jam today, and that is what separates us from the heart of the Eurozone. Unless we distance ourselves further, isolate our liability, we could well be working until 70 to pay Pierre's generous pension in 2020.