The latest on strike action in France closing down oil refineries, hitting supplies of petrol across the country.
France’s Socialists survive another day
There were smiles on the faces of France’s Socialist MPs today. During a time of division, talk of leadership battles and polls that show the party falling behind the right and far right in next year’s presidential elections, you’d think there isn’t much to be happy about on the left of French politics.
Yet in this time of survival for the government, it didn’t come as a surprise that they saw through the defeat of a vote of no confidence on a controversial labour reform bill, seen as too pro-business by some, which has now been fast-tracked through to the Senate.
For governments in France, the number 49.3 is more often than not a sign of desperate times. This part of the constitution allows bills proposed by the government to avoid a vote by French MPs, making it closing to becoming law.
The last time it was used was last year to allow a package of disputed economic reforms, nicknamed the Loi Macron, after Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, to be pushed through parliament.
Even yesterday the party was under attack from within, as rebel backbench Socialist MPs put forward a vote of no confidence – a way of putting an end to this constitutional backdoor, before it was narrowly defeated.
It served as a crystallisation of just how difficult it is proving to enact reforms, loosening France’s unwieldy regulation and complex bureaucracy and kickstarting the country’s perpetually ailing economy.
The legislation aims to weaken the power of unions, make employers able to extend working hours beyond 35 hours and make it easier for them to fire and hire workers.
Scenes of tear gas, vandalism and violence on the streets of Paris and several other cities across the country, told a different story. Despite polls showing relatively low membership of worker’s unions – perhaps surprisingly given France’s long history of the worker rising against the rich and powerful elite – the influence of the unions can’t be underestimated.
Their voice may be loud, the scenes of their mobilisation great fodder for journalists, even that doesn’t seem enough to derail this government’s determination to make the economy more flexible and put it on a stable growth footing with unemployment hovering around 10 per cent.
The reform bill has set out to bring a more laissez-faire approach to the labour market, doing away with the current government-central diktat dictating regulation to employees in the form of a nearly four thousand page tome.
The Loi Travail, or Loi El Khromi – named after the labour minister, will continue through to the Senate next month, on 13th June. It could well be changed before it returns back to the lower house, when the government could once again dodge a bullet by resorting to its 49.3 constitutional back door.
The centre-right Les Républicains party voted against the government, with one of their MPs calling François Hollande’s five-year term as president “beyond all hope”.
Such a tense time for the left means it is open season for electioneering and exposing the Socialist party’s vulnerable position, which rests on Hollande’s promise to grow the economy and bring down unemployment. It’s a pledge which he made last year that only then will allow him to stand for election next year.
But with determination from France’s unions and an increasingly impatient mood for signs of economic prosperity, opposition to the bill means this headache for the French government is far from over.
ITV News – Remain or Leave? What could it mean for the travel industry
A feature on the potential impact of Brexit on the travel industry I rear searched and wrote for ITV News, including statistics and a Q&A.
Producing CJS News bulletin
A 12-minute bulletin of CJS News I produced, which included adding a headline sequence of top stories and separate presentation for sport.
Throughout the day I co-producing bulletins, assigning stories and helping the reporting team to turn around packages and stories for this final bulletin of the day.
The bulletin was then directed and vision mixed by me.
Presenting and producing a news update
I produced and presented this 2″ quick news update.
Education provision in Cardiff – a special report
A report I produced, shot and edited on planned changes to catchment areas for secondary schools in Cardiff.
Presenting CJS News
Presenting the 10-minute CJS News bulletin.
‘Political tourism’ storm in Spain
It’s the start of a storm in Spain – about so-called ‘political tourism’.
Members of Spain’s leftist party, Podemos, the Basque terrorist group, ETA, and a Catalan anti-capitalist party, CUP, headed for Venezuela in a private plane laid on by President Nicolás Maduro – leader of a nationalist government which many now regard as a regime.
Now Spain’s politicians are demanding explanations.
Exclusive images from Spanish TV channel Antena 3 last night showed figures from all three groups on the tarmac at Madrid’s airport in December 2014 headed for Caracas on a presidential plane laid on especially by Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.
What were these groups doing being flown privately by this divisive political figure – and how close are they to him?
Among those on board was Anna Gabriel, the spokesperson and politician for the CUP, a Catalan anti-capitalist, anti-EU and anti-NATO party which is propping up a pro-independence Catalan government.
All she had to say to reporters was that she was up to “very interesting things” in Venezuela.
Very interesting things included discussing neo-Fascism, the destructive effects of capitalism, the right to decide about the break-up of Spain, and ETA.
Another aboard was Iñaki Gil de San Vicente, the father-in-law of the number one man in ETA, the Basque terrorist group responsible for killing 829 people in its struggle for separatism. He’s also the father of a Basque terrorist arrested in France.
And from Spain’s third biggest political force, Podemos, was María José Aguilar, member of the party in Spain’s central Castilla la Mancha region. The party wished to distance Aguilar’s journey from the party, saying that she went to attend the conference for its intellectual, artistic discussions instead.
15 Spanish nationals were aboard the plane in total, with over 30 people from 13 nationalities flying altogether.
The Spanish Interior Minister questioned the circumstances surrounding the private plane – and the consequences the scandal could have on Spanish politics. Jorge Fernández Díaz called it “unprecedented” and said it wasn’t the “normal thing” for a leader of a country to lay on a plane.
The images have caused uproar on social media, with some users condemning Antena 3 for the poor taste of its journalism. The scoop was also splashed over nearly all of the front pages of Spain’s daily newspapers.
Spain’s newest political party Podemos – which had one of its members on board – has previously allied itself with chavismo – a left-wing ideology which takes its name from the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. It was an answer to capitalism, all about dealing with rising inequality in Latin America by promoting nationalisation, social welfare and patriotism.
Podemos even received funding from the Venezuelan government and senior figures have worked for the leadership, all while praising its democracy as one of the world’s best.
Venezuela is in the midst of a deep economic crisis. The drop in oil prices means debt repayment is becoming near on impossible and the country has finally declared an economic emergency.
Inflation has been rocketing for several years already, making the bolívar currency virtually worthless, while the economy has been shrinking since the beginning of 2014. It’s these alarming figures the Venezuelan government is seeking to hide from its own people.
Food shortages are all too common. Imports for staples such as eggs, flour and milk have become too expensive for the government, leaving supermarket shelves empty.
According to the latest Press Freedom Index from 2015, its media ranked 137 out of 180 countries, compared to Spain (33rd). Journalists have been harassed and the press has been polarised and limited.
It says: “Many local and foreign journalists were the targets of threats, insults, physical attacks, theft, destruction of equipment and arrests during a succession of protests.”
With national elections in Spain in December still far from producing a new government, any tremors of instability there are enough to whip up a political storm.
A month on from terror on the streets of Paris
Audio and visual narrative of my trip to Paris and the Place de la République, the square where French people have been remembering the dead after the terrorist attacks of January and November.
The Front National’s power struggle
Today might be the day the Front National got nearer than it’s ever been to controlling more than a town hall – but not enough.
The far-right party came top in six of France’s 13 regions, gaining 28 per cent of the vote overall, but latest polling shows that this second round vote for the FN in the north and south has become much tighter.
That’s not to deny the party its huge rise in popularity in the past few years. In last year’s European Parliament elections, it came first.
Today’s election will tell us that little bit more about the party’s chances in France’s presidential elections, under eighteen months away.
Another rise in the polls may be likely by then, but a Le Pen presidency is realistically off the cards. Instead it will be a race between the left and the right – both parties which have their own problems.
President François Hollande has pledged to stand only if unemployment goes down. For the moment, it’s a far from optimistic picture. October saw the highest monthly rise since 2013 – at 10.8 per cent.
In a continent where unemployment overall is in decline, France has been picking up. The figure was 1.2 per cent up on the month before, and 3.7 per cent greater compared with figures from the year before.
President Hollande’s popularity has been boosted by his leadership after the 13th November attacks – symbolically a month ago today. It’s always hard to say how much national politics sways opinion at a local level, but it’s an easy guess that France’s turbulent year will be playing on the minds of many voters.
And for former president Nicolas Sarkozy, he will need to battle a primary for leadership of the party into the elections, with rival Alain Juppé widely expected to beat him.
Sarkozy will also have to prove that his Republican Party isn’t just chasing the coat tails of the FN and swinging to the far right with populist policies.
Security issues have clearly been high on the list of voters’ worries, but with a government fighting so hard to reform France’s economy and with results so hard to see, economic recovery will be a tough sell for Hollande’s government going forward.
Europe has seen a sea change in its politics since the beginning of the financial crisis. Today will be proof – if more were needed – that France is a three party state, with Marine Le Pen rubbing shoulders with Sarkozy and Hollande a for a while longer yet.
While she may not claim seats and tangible power, the worries of Front National voters – French identity, France’s place in Europe, security issues and economic uncertainty – are problems that simply can’t go unnoticed if France’s politics wants to remain relevant – and not fearful of the all too real far right invasion.
Between now and spring 2017, there can be no more complacency as no party can really claim victory from these elections.