Image via WikipediaI was living in France when, to the horror of everyone except supporters of the right wing Front National, the PS (so called socialist) candidate Lionel Jospin threw away his party's chances by not campaigning in the first round of the Presidential elections.
I remember the newspaper photographs....a jaunty Jospin in black overcoat and red scarf posing in front of his campaign headquarters, christened 'L'Atelier'...the workshop.
I can remember thinking that it would have been a long time since any of the PS politicians had seen a real workshop.....which might have been one factor accounting for the fact that many voters who were more nearly acquainted with them voted for the FN candidate, Monsieur Le Pen.
In the resulting run off between Chirac (candidate of the not quite so right wing party) and Le Pen, left wing voters felt themselves obliged to vote for the former, indicating their disgust at being so obliged by walking into polling stations holding their noses and, in one case, wearing a deep sea diver's suit and helmet.
Now we are in the build up to the 2012 presidential elections and this year's cantonals (local elections) are receiving a great deal more attention than usual, when they pass with a yawn only slightly smaller than the yawn that greets the elections for the European Parliament.
Because the Front National are doing rather well, under the leadership of Le Pen II - Marine, daughter of Le Pen I.
Dust off the diving suits, history could be repeating itself.
Not because the PS won't be contesting the first round of the Presidentials.....once the potential candidates have finished mauling and denigrating each other in the process of putting up the last man standing....but because people are just fed up.
All the mainstream parties are tarred with the same brush, their leaders seen as more interested in the spoils than in the welfare of the mass of the French people....
The UMP (ruling right wing party) have not only shot down their leader, Sarkozy, on discovering that he wanted to reform a system that had long reserved the good things of life for the very few to allow a very few more to get their hands on the dibs, but have also managed to shoot themselves in the foot with the same bullet, as having nothing to offer the voters but the discredited system they wish to preserve.
With such talent with a firearm, you feel they must all be dedicated members of la chasse.
One paper...I think Le Point...reports that levels of 'fed upness' are such that people are claiming that they will vote FN because they have been fined for allowing their dog to foul a public footpath!
Given all the wails in blogs about dog turds in Paris I imagine that the Front National stand to win handsomely in every Parisian arrondissement if that's the case.
So it's not really the moment to alienate a large sector of the rural population....the members of the many and varied associations which adorn the pages of the local rags...the chess clubs, the old car clubs, the photography clubs, the sewing bees, the palets players, the ball trappers, the knitting circles, the local history groups...and for all I know, pole dancing associations.
Membership of these groups alleviates the tedium of rural life, and 'la vie associative' is always hailed as one of the positive features of French society.....so why would someone want to undermine this institution?
Well, one taxman is trying to do so.
His motives are unknown to me....is he a member of the FN anxious to make the gesture that might just tip the scales in his party's favour or is he just doing his job, obeying orders from Paris to rake in every last euro in order to pay for the the Prime Minister to take a private plane between Paris and his home in the Sarthe to avoid the hurly burly of an hour on the TGV?
What is this taxman doing?
These groups frequently support their activities by organising a bingo...a 'loto'. Some organise these themselves, but in the case currently in court, it is clear that some use the services of a bingo organiser...who has a few rounds for his own profit while he is at it.
The taxman claims that this breaks the law.
But if he wins, it won't only be the organiser that will be coughing up....it will be any organisation holding a bingo session that will be in danger.
This is why.
A bingo..or any game of chance....can only escape tax if it is a session confined to a defined group.... and for social, cultural, educational, scientific or what is described as 'animation social' purposes.
Well, I reckon any rural bingo qualifies under any of those latter headings.
It is the defined circle bit that will cause problems.
A village bingo brings in the group organising it and their families, people who just happen to see the notice outside the mairie and the dedicated bingo addicts who will travel distances to take part.
How can this motley assembly ever be described as a 'defined circle'?
Still, as we all know, there is a great French tradition of resistance to oppression and I am sure that the local groups will be organising to meet the threat.
Let us listen in on the secret planning group of the ball trappers.....probably by using the listening devices the gendarmerie have illegally placed on the premises under the pretence that the ball trappers are potential terrorists, on the lines of the Tarnac Nine.
Jules, have you organised the bingo cards?
Yes, no problem...I've printed them off on my son's computer....
And the notices?
Yes, those too....with instructions to bring a torch, a folding chair and a tray to write on.
Right, Didier....have you organised the distribution?
Yes....the postmen are taking them out with the letters the day before. They know which houses to avoid...
I'm meeting them round behind the church so the postmaster doesn't see anything.
What about the venue? Isn't it going to be a bit noticeable, all these people collecting? Suppose we are denounced?
That's exactly why we chose the field behind where the travelling still used to stand before they made it stay in one place.....there are all those lanes through the vines and at least three roads for access to the area...and we'll have sentries with mobile 'phones.
Yes, but getting all these people away safely will be a problem all the same if the gendarmerie make a raid...look at the job we have in the salle de fetes as it is....
Alfred's organising the parking in the fields behind the vines....and at least we won't have anyone trapped in the lavatory...I keep asking for that door to be fixed but they do nothing....They can find money to replace the secretary's typing chair but when it comes to something vital like a lavatory door.....
O.K. Clement....calm down....
Yes, you're right. Have to keep a clear head...
Look, Jean-Pierre, even if the worst comes to the worst and they catch some of us there won't be a problem.
What do you mean, 'won't be a problem'?
Well, I'll just tell them that we're having a rave party for the notaire's son.....and I should know, I'm his clerk.
You watch them slink away......