As always, the difficulty is only partly in agreeing what reforms are needed. The harder question is how to bring them about. In many ways, the mood in contemporary France feels similar to that of Britain in the late 1970s. A political discourse of anti-capitalism has taken hold, accompanied by revolutionary communist and Trotskyite movements reminiscent of Britain's Militant Tendency and other hard-left class warriors in the 1970s.
Populist egalitarianism is preached with little regard for wealth creation. Union leaders are household names, and enjoy an influence disproportionate to their numerical importance in the workforce.（For the French firebrand José Bové, think Arthur Scargill, the noisy leader of Britain's miners）. Intermittent paralysing strikes and street demos are regarded as normal（a widespread strike has been called for October 4th）. Politicians promise “economic patriotism” and fear de-industrialisation. State-owned giants such as EDF, the electric-power utility, are considered national treasures, as British Steel and British Coal once were. A bloated state saps public finances. And the country is infused with a mentality of decline.
Plainly, the parallel is not perfect. France is not facing the financial crisis that forced Britain to borrow from the IMF in 1976. Its private companies are in fine form, which was not the case for corporate Britain at the time. But there are enough similarities to prompt hard questions for France. If there is no crisis to match the one that led the British to elect（and re-elect）Margaret Thatcher, are the French nonetheless prepared for uncomfortable change? After all, much of this civilised, well-kept country, of high-speed trains and sit-down lunches, does not behave like a place on the edge of the precipice. Mr Sarkozy, for one, believes his compatriots are ready. “The French”, he declared, “are not afraid of change; they are hoping, waiting, calling for it.” The question then is: who best incarnates it?