If Sarkozy Thinks FT Is a Free Market Newspaper, He's More Extreme Than We Realized

by DANIEL HANNAN April 19, 2012

Mon centre cède, ma droite recule, situation excellente, j'attaque. The lower he sinks in the opinion polls, the more pugnacious Nicolas Sarkozy becomes. His favourite target is Britain - specifically, free-market capitalism as he imagines it to be practised in Britain.

Earlier today, in an especially bizarre outburst, he picked on the Financial Times. 'The FT, as they say in informed circles, has always defended the Anglo-Saxon model, considering the French incorrigible and that we would do better to align ourselves to the Anglo-Saxon model,' he said during a television debate. 'The FT has thought for many years that the solution for the world is that there should be no law. I think exactly the opposite.'

There's nothing wrong with national stereotypes, Sarko, but get them right, death of my life and the sacred blue. The notion that the FT is a doctrinally capitalist newspaper is so far off the mark that it's hard to know where criticism should begin. Since at least the early 1980s, the FT has been a corporatist paper of the Centre-Left, occasionally pro-business, but never pro-market. It opposed Margaret Thatcher's economic reforms, taking its hostility so far that it was, in effect, the only British newspaper openly to regret her victory in the Falklands War. Never mind Tony Blair; it backed Neil Kinnock in 1992. It was the single strongest supporter of ERM membership. It loudly applauded the monetary splurge which followed the credit crunch.

It is the most Euro-enthusiast daily newspaper in the country. Its ludicrous pronouncements on the success of the single currency could fill a book. Indeed, they have filled a book: Guilty Men by Peter Oborne. Here is one of my favourites:

With Greece now trading in euros, few will mourn the death of the drachma. Membership of the eurozone offers the prospect of long-term economic stability.

The paper was still hymning the praises of the euro as late as the second half of 2008, quite oblivious to how things were turning out. Its hostility to Eurosceptics and free-marketeers has deepened as they have been proved right (read, for example, these comments by Norman Davies.)

All newspapers are partial, of course. Everyone has a point of view. But the FT is unique in combining a tone of Olympian authority with quite naked partisanship. One of my earliest blogs here concerned an especially egregious example of its double standards on the EU

In short, the FT's position is the precise opposite of what Sarko thinks. Far from wanting to make the Continent more like Britain, it wants to make Britain more like the Continent - where, of course, most of its readers live and work.

That Sarko regards the pink paper as scarily Right-wing tells us quite how far from the European mainstream his own views are. The truth is that France faces a choice between two socialists. Both favour a command economy, a measure of protectionism, entrenched entitlements ('les acquis sociaux'), deeper European integration, and a dirigiste state. No wonder they argue so fiercely about immigration: that's virtually the only area where they disagree. Bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet, as they say in France. Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee.

Daniel Hannan is a British writer and journalist, and has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the EU is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free. He is the winner of the Bastiat Award for online journalism.


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