Politique d'un autre temps: a newspaper article that
came out in 2003….


Let's not be too cordiale

By Joshua Rey

My comment in 2003:

It's that article about Anglo-French relations I was reading. The "entente cordiale" is the treaty we have had with France for a century this year, agreeing mutual support. I think it literally translates as "cordial relationship."

Understanding the relationship between us and France goes a long way to solving why the world is as it is. You have inherited the competition with them too! :) Good luck! They're feisty!.


EVERYONE loves France: food, wine, art, landscape, fashion; intelligent hedonism, ancient culture. I grant you, you get all this cheaper, classier and with more friendly service in Italy, but one can’t have too much of a good thing. The Entente Cordiale is a great way to enjoy all this and fight fewer wars. But psychologists find that marriages work best between spouses who think alike. And one of the loveliest things about France is that it is so very foreign.

When I was in the City there were big bucks in playing British and French tax laws against one another. Send cash across the Channel, suitably packaged, and it gets a deduction on leaving Dover but incurs no tax at Calais. Pass the Moët. But things were not set up like this to amuse bankers. Napoleon’s cannons gave the Continent a legal code in the early 19th century; thanks to Nelson we kept our common law. Now in France, if there is no law permitting you to do something, you may not do it. In the Anglosphere, it is allowed as long as the law is silent. This is why EU rules about plum sizes drive us bonkers. Our culture says “have as few rules as possible and obey them all”. On the Continent there are too many laws and people have learnt to ignore the stupid ones.

The French are better than us at grands projets. The Champs Elysées makes a straight line from the Louvre to the Bois de Boulogne; when the Prince Regent wanted to link Carlton House with his favourite park he had to settle for Regent Street. Eurostar runs through Kent like a steamroller on temazepam for the same reason: we ask permission of the frogs before we drain the pond. In 1984 (smell the symbolism), France Telecom gave everyone a screen on his telephone with loads of tabulated information about rainfall in Chad and trains to Montpelier. Much more elegant than the internet, n’est-ce pas? But elegance is not everything.

English conquered the world partly because we don’t care how you speak it. France has a law to enforce the use of French. England has the Oxford English Dictionary — growing by 4,000 words a year.

France and the Continent are different from Britain and the Anglosphere. Seductively different; exotic. But before you turn a friendly understanding into an ever-closer union, listen to the psychologist: when opposites attract, it ends in tears.


A reply from someone you know....


Very interesting article and somewhat empowering.

We're taught that it's un-PC to be who we are because we have had successes in the past, but really, no system is perfect and people today wouldn't be benefiting from it if we (our ancestors) hadn't set it up. A lot of focus on the negative in the world today (as in who is repressed or discriminated against). You know, being around you (and listening to your ideas) has made me more nationalistic I think.

Unfortunately for the suede shoe merchant French, we Anglais have Inner Yodas.