If you think the UK is sinking under a storm of strikes and industrial action at the moment, you should spend a few days in France. I did last Tuesday and woke up to the sound of a full-blooded protest outside L’Opera. Later the Interior Ministry confirmed that no fewer than 963,000 were protesting nationwide that day. To put that in context that is significantly more people out on strike in one day than we had in the entire month of December.
Like quite a few things, the French do strikes and protests with rather more savoir faire than we do. Their protests quickly develop into a full-blown, baying mob – rather than the rather self-conscious affairs that we can muster. Just as in London though, most Parisians muddled through, walked or cycled or worked from home and life went on.
What is the cause of all this tonnerre et éclair you may ask? The outrageous attempt by President Macron to raise the pension age from 62 to 64. Glory be! For those of us in Britain who won’t be collecting a pension until we’re 67 (and suspect that number is going to rise again before long) this sounds like riches beyond the dreams of avarice.
The French though value their lengthy retraite almost as much as their conge annuel and the mere suggestion that they may be forced to continue to draw a salary for another two years has brought them out on the streets in hordes.
In Britain we are more worried about all the older workers leaving the workforce. In France the problem is keeping them there. The word is that Le President will have to compromise and might – just – persuade the unions to accept an increase in the pensionable age to 63. A tale of two cities indeed.
Ticker tape parade
I’m please to say that my note two weeks ago on the dearth of listings and the red tape that is partially to blame, stirred up a mini debate on LinkedIn. The most striking contribution came from my old friend Matt Peacock (ex BBC and Vodafone) who revealed that new EU regulations will force companies – public and private – to report their ESG footprint under no fewer than 84 topics, with 1100 data points. This is potentially regulation to destruction for smaller businesses.
In Britain every new business secretary promises a “bonfire of regulation” without so much as lighting a match. Let’s hope that the newly-installed Kemi Badenoch does better, even if only not to make such false promises.
Don’t play it again
One of my favourite scenes in Casablanca (in turn one of my favourite films) is when Captain Louis Renault pronounces that he is “shocked, shocked!” to find out there has been gambling going on in Rick’s Bar. So I was fascinated to read that Markus Braun, former chief executive officer of Wirecard, said last week that he was shocked to learn that there was fraud at the company he ran, shortly before it went bust. It is up to the court to decide on the merits of his defence of course, but should this now become known as the Louis Defence?
Up, up and 8,000
By the time you read this it is just possible that the FTSE100 index will have breached the 8,000 mark for the first time in its history, catching all the market doom-mongers by surprise although I am sure there will be an orgy of retrospective self-justification amongst market commentators in the coming months.
Good news of course for investors who kept their cash in equities despite all the warnings. But frankly about time too since it is seven long years since it went through 7,000 and 24 (!) years since it hit 6,000, despite the index’s curious habit of regularly weeding out underperformers and replacing them with the latest hot stocks, flattering its performance enormously in the process. Hopefully the strength of the market will now attract some new issues?
The State of Prosperity in the West by Johnny Patterson (Legatum Institute, www.li.com)
Many of us instinctively believe that there is an innate superiority to Western democracy, and that our system will naturally prevail. So this new report from the Legatum Institute’s makes sobering reading – quoting that over 1 billion people now live in democracies with ‘malaise’, where between half and two-third of the population are dissatisfied with it as a system of government. This is a well written wake-up call about the fundamental things we value, and the very real threats they face.
Quote of the day
“There is a shadow hanging over liberal democracies” Legatum Institute