Regional government doesn't have to be a hysterical disaster

Georges Frêche in Languedoc-Roussillon: If possible with Paris, if necessary without Paris, but never against Paris.

The grass is literally greener in France–it rains more–and the metaphor works too: there’s intelligently-cooked, exquisitely-served, small-town food at sensible prices; landscapes free of the half-finished prefab that marks the high-water mark of Spain’s property boom–post-war Sarajevo without the shell holes; a political class which, for all its faults, will not on the whole be spending the next few years in gaol for embezzlement; and a general air of peace and efficiency.
But then there’s Georges Frêche. John Lichfield in Независимый has a decent bash at summarising the doings and sayings of Languedoc-Roussillon’s flamboyant and all-powerful nationalist-socialist-or-whatever president, witnessed launching clenched fist salutes to Lenin and Mao at the regional elections. The title “Le Pen of the left” is however typical Indie crassness–and for political context as opposed to bear-pit news-bites you should of course turn to Arthur Goldhammer.
Someone said to me the other day re the rapid evaporation of northern Europe support for massive cash handouts to the south that for the latter’s politicians the era of representation without taxation is drawing to a close. Languedoc-Roussillon has benefited considerably from EU subsidies, but there has generally been a sense of responsibility underlying Frêche’s apparent lunacy which is lacking in many Spanish regional administrations. (Recently in: Catalonia, the motor of the Spanish economy under Franco, has dropped behind Madrid in GDP.)
One Frêche aphorism which Lichfield didn’t discover but which our man is said to trot out with some frequency and with more conviction than some of his other quotes, and which expresses a more pragmatic approach to autonomy than is to be found south of the border: “Si possible avec Paris, à défaut sans Paris, mais jamais contre Paris.”
And Montpellier is young and thriving, where Barcelona is increasingly geriatric and lost, and so on and so on, but it was slightly disturbing to be shown into one of Montpellier’s university libraries and to find that none of the students was using an electronic device. Re which. More or less as another polemicist said: for every complex situation, there is a generalisation that is simple, neat, and quite possibly wrong.

Similar posts


  1. You forgot zebra crossings. In France drivers slow down as they approach them. In Spain they accelerate to try and intimidate pedestrians from setting foot. And then they wave in apology as they hurtle past.

  2. Ah, but the admittedly impressive performance of the general population is mitigated by young Algerian men, who all seem to have attended a Clarkson-ite course in how to drive like an arsehole.
    You forgot potato chips, which they still cut by hand in market bars. Perhaps the chief, albeit minor, glory of Barcelona cuisine used to be its patatas bravas, but now they’re all frozen and served by surly sods.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *