I admit that this eavesdropping, which referred to the Court of Appeal judgement, has overtones of overheard-in-Waitrose about it, but even in this – usually idyllic - part of the world, there is no escaping the machinations of the proponents of the attempted coup. After a 10 day sojourn in the UK, which coincided with our Constituency Labour Party nomination meeting (93 – 25 in favour of Corbyn since you ask) and included a dozen or more impromptu and pessimistic discussions about the future of the country and the party, I had expected to return to a few day’s grace and welcome respite from the day-to-day debate.
But it was not to be. As the British Left move south, they bring with them their concerns and commitments. And they find a ready audience here in Uzès where the ex-pat community tends to eschew the stereotypical Englishman abroad and embrace a more cosmopolitan worldview. Equally, the Uzètiens, not solely through self-interest, are as anxious about the impact of Brexit and the turmoil in le parti travailliste as are we all.
In fact, the French struggle to understand much of what is going on. Trotskyism in France, for example, is not a gratuitous term of abuse but a description of a particular and legitimate ideology which was forged in opposition to Stalinism. And where does Trotsky advocate “entryism”? (He doesn’t anywhere, as a French friend pointed out forcibly to me the other day. Exactement!)
But the requirement for precision and accuracy – dare we call it truth? – in political discourse is pretty much de rigeur in France. And you don’t need me to point out that this is very different from the standards of our British politicians and journalists, where a recent academic study has found that precisely 0% of Corbyn’s speeches have been accurately and comprehensively reported in ‘newspapers’ such as The Mail and The Express and barely at all at the BBC and The Guardian.
I suspect that the French tradition is the result of its respect for les philosophes and a well-established tradition of rigorous and challenging intellectual contribution to political thought. In Britain, this is despised; in France, it is welcomed, embraced. In Britain, we dismiss people as “too clever by half” or “Two-Brains”; in France, we read them, listen to them, learn from them.
It is this tradition which prompts the support which Corbyn commands amongst our French friends and the shock and amazement provoked by the abuse heaped upon him by his opponents inside the party: on the one hand, a man whose contributions are reasoned, thoughtful, and quietly spoken; on the other, snide sound-bites, shouted.
But, as Voltaire famously put it, “The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it.”
Let’s hope so.
* I commend this place to you, particularly as they bring down from Brittany, really good, cool water oysters and the multi-national staff are exceptional.
Today from the everysmith vaults: The Cowboy Junkies and a live show at the Newport Folk Festival in August 2008. Plus a rendition of Dirty Water, part of my own small and solo celebration of the Sox winning the make-up game in Cleveland last night, which I didn't see live because of a dinner date.