Tuesday, 26 July 2011
Lessons We Could Learn From Our Entente Cordiale Partners
The Entente Cordiale is over 100 years old and was commonly thought to be a formal agreement between France and Britain although that was questioned as early as 1911:
The fundamental fact of course is that the Entente is not an alliance. For purposes of ultimate emergencies it may be found to have no substance at all. For the Entente is nothing more than a frame of mind, a view of general policy which is shared by the governments of two countries, but which may be, or become, so vague as to lose all content.
In recent years I've heard people of many political persuasions mention the Entente Cordiale, more in the context of a gentleman's agreement, when discussing European politics or policies yet I know, from living in England for many years, there is little love lost between the French and English.
The Scots tend to be less vocal, although when I mentioned to a friend I intended to write about France she said, "Don't forget to include the wonderful Onion Johnnies." She has happy memories of these French farmers cycling round the streets of Manchester - her home town - with big red onions dangling round their necks and speaking English with an alluring French accent. I didn't disillusion her with my recollections of Onion Johnnies in Dundee. No red onions there (we had white) and no charming broken English. They spoke Scots and nobody seemed to care because their onions were a good price and quality.
Today, gas and electricity is a standard quality but prices vary wildly throughout Europe. The UK has just been informed of a massive second price increase for this year alone.
The French haven't had any increases this year and there is to be no gas increase says Sarkozy. Their publicly owned electricity supplier has had its wings clipped by the government to a mere 1.7% rise this month and a further 1.2% rise next summer. The state run EDF requested annual increases of 5.1% for the next four years to take into account needed investments to upgrade France's 58 nuclear reactors.
Why can't the UK government take some lessons from our Entente Cordiale partners about controlling utility prices? Because in the 90s the government sold off our publicly owned companies to the highest bidder and most are now under foreign ownership.
A few weeks ago politicians were raging about the excessive increases which will be foisted upon us this winter, but quickly forgot about the distress and health risks to the vulnerable, when it seemed likely that Murdoch would spill the beans on their behaviour. Now Westminster is closed for business until September, when it sits for only 9 days before the Conference recess, after which it returns on 11 October. Ofgem are to probe Scottish Power's price rise; a fruitless task because we already know the outcome. Once Ofgem publishes their report the other 5 big energy companies (including the French EDF which also supplies the UK) will announce similar rises.
It's reported Sarkozy hopes his strong stance with his country's utility suppliers will deflect criticism that he is not protecting consumers' purchasing power.
Who protects our purchasing power? It's time we had a look over the channel and acquired some hints and tips from our Entente Cordiale partners on how to express our anger. Thousands of vulnerable people will die this winter because they can't afford fuel bills. Are we happy to allow that to happen without loud public protest?