Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria's Presidential polls

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014 (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over "shoe-shine scandal"

Read more

#THE 51%

Breaking stereotypes

Read more

#TECH 24

Galaxy S5 v. HTC One (M8): Which is the right one for you?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

New PM Manuel Valls outlines priorities

Read more

FASHION

Jean-Marc Loubier, bags and shoes.

Read more

ENCORE!

Hip-hop musician Beat Assailant on mixing the sounds of the city

Read more

  • Bouteflika, the ghost president

    Read more

  • Algeria's ailing Bouteflika clinches fourth term amid fraud claims

    Read more

  • Police arrest S. Korea ferry captain for negligence

    Read more

  • Ukraine separatists say ‘not bound’ by Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Does Valls’ upcoming Vatican trip violate French secularism?

    Read more

  • Obama signs bill to block controversial Iran diplomat from UN post

    Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • World honours Garcia Marquez’s magical literary legacy

    Read more

  • Ukraine: ‘One bloody incident could scupper Geneva deal’

    Read more

  • Top Hollande adviser resigns over conflict of interest accusation

    Read more

  • Indian election: Votes for sale

    Read more

  • West African Ebola outbreak caused by new strain of virus

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • Video: Tensions remain high in Mariupol despite Geneva deal

    Read more

  • In Prijedor, survivors fight to keep memory alive

    Read more

  • Deadly avalanche strikes Everest in worst-ever disaster

    Read more

  • With a strong French presence, veterans and fresh faces, Cannes aims to please

    Read more

  • Russia and West agree on steps to ease Ukraine crisis

    Read more

  • Mob launches deadly attack on UN shelter for S. Sudan civilians

    Read more

  • Eurostar train mishap causes 'severe' delays

    Read more

  • Chelsea Clinton announces she's pregnant

    Read more

  • French troops free five aid workers kidnapped in Mali by Islamists

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • After cup defeat, Spanish pundits read last rites for Barcelona

    Read more

  • India heads to polls in single largest day of voting

    Read more

France

‘Paris-on-Thames’ votes in first round of French poll

©

Latest update : 2012-04-22

London is home to an estimated 350,000 French residents, earning it the monicker “Paris on Thames". As French nationals in London cast their ballots in Sunday’s election, many said they were not impressed by the candidates.

REUTERS - Pampered by a profligate state and blind to hard economic truths: that is how many French expatriates who have crossed the Channel to seek job opportunities in London view their compatriots back home as they prepare to elect their president.

Dubbed "Paris-on-Thames" by some British media, London has an estimated 350,000 French residents scattered across the city and working in every sector from finance to fast food. It is the equivalent of France's fifth city after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, if you discount those cities' suburbs.

Reasons for moving to London range from learning English to getting a lucrative job in financial services, or simply to enjoy a diverse, dynamic environment less stifling than Paris.

"People in Paris are not very open-minded. London is a lot more multi-cultural. And let's face it, the job opportunities are much better," said Turpin Senou, a French worker in the City financial district with family roots in Benin, West Africa.

Many French Londoners say France is bent on preserving a cushy but unaffordable lifestyle, and they are deeply unimpressed with what the presidential candidates are proposing.

"They argue about things like halal meat. It's populist nonsense. The real problem is the economic crisis and they're not saying anything convincing about how to sort it out," said Silene Sashugba, an acupuncturist.

A row over warning labels on meat prepared under Muslim halal rules dominated early stages of the campaign.

Sashugba plans to vote for Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande, but she is not enthused.

More than 77,500 French Londoners are registered to vote with the consulate, and many others may travel home to cast their ballots. The presidential election will take place in two rounds on April 22 and May 6 while the legislative elections are scheduled for June 10 and 17.

In the past there was a single polling station in London, at the main French school, b ut this year there will be three.

Hollande made a ca

mpaign visit on Feb. 29, while conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy is bombarding expatriates with emails promising more places in French schools abroad. Education is the number one issue for French Londoners desperate to get their children into over-subscribed French schools.

But the voters Sarkozy is courting do not seem inclined to focus only on their narrow interests. Frederique Shaw, a public relations executive, frets about how she will get her young daughter Heloise into school, but when it comes to the election she frets more about the future of her home country.

"I'm really worried about the health of France. I feel an enormous responsibility to vote but I'm afraid of voting for the wrong person. Who will be brave and do the right thing?" said Shaw, who has not yet decided who will get her vote.

Pascal Grierson, CEO of French Radio London which has about 75,000 listeners a week, says there is a lot of buzz around the election but little enthusiasm for the candidates.

"There's a lot of dissatisfaction with Sarkozy and what he's delivered, or failed to deliver, balanced with the fact that people want to believe in Hollande and want to believe that he's the man for the job but are struggling with his believability
and credentials," said Grierson.

In past decades, expatriate voters were far more right-leaning than French society at large. In 1981, when Socialist challenger Francois Mitterrand won the presidency, his
score among voters in London was less than 30 percent.

But over time, as the community has grown and diversified, voting patterns have fallen into line with the national average. In the 2007 election, Sarkozy won the London vote with a score that was almost identical to the national result.

A community that used to be made up largely of diplomats, bankers and business executives has burst out of its original heartland in affluent South Kensington. Now, the sound of French can be heard in every corner of London and French professionals can be found everywhere from hospitals to hotels.

"These developments suggest that Hollande should do well in London this time," said Philippe Marliere, a professor of politics at University College London.

In any case, while many of these French residents embrace London's economically liberal, hire-and-fire culture for themselves, few have a black-and-white position on the relative merits of the broader French and British economic models.

Britain's budget deficit is hovering around 9 percent of GDP, compared with about 5 percent in France. Inequalities between the highest and lowest earners are greater in Britain than in France. And few people either side of the Channel would
dispute that the French health system is better - albeit at the cost of a huge funding deficit - and many expats sneak back home when they need non-urgent treatment.

The difference right now, say many French Londoners, is that Britain is tackling its problems with an aggressive austerity programme, while France is not prepared to give anything up.

"The French model is incredibly protective. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but if people want to keep that model they need to realise it has a cost," said Sandrine Tobelem, a senior quantitative analyst at a London-based hedge fund.

City under attack

The French are ubiquitous in the City, particularly in fields such as equity derivatives where the top-notch mathematical skills of graduates from France's prestigious
"Grandes Ecoles" colleges gi v e them a competitive advantage.

While many of them are disappointed with Sarkozy, few have
warmed to Hollande, who wants to impose a 75-percent tax rate on those earning more than 1 million euros a year and once said on live television that he "doesn't like the rich".

In his first major campaign speech, Hollande declared that finance was his enemy.

"It's absurd. What are we going to do, start bartering carrots and potatoes?" said Tobelem. No fan of Sarkozy either, she plans to vote "blanc", which means she will cast her vote but will not choose any of the candidates.

Date created : 2012-04-22

  • FRENCH ELECTIONS 2012

    Moment of truth looms for a 'desperate' Sarkozy

    Read more

  • FRENCH ELECTIONS 2012

    Foreign press ready to bid ‘adieu’ to Sarkozy

    Read more

  • FRENCH ELECTIONS 2012

    Trailing in opinion polls, Sarkozy lashes out at the left

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)