British press probes French stereotypes on Valls visit

7th October 2014, Comments 0 comments

The British press wrestled over stereotypes of France as a failing economy on Tuesday, after Prime Minister Manuel Valls travelled to London to insist his country is open for business.

Many articles focused on the Socialist prime minister's response to remarks made by Andy Street, the director of retailer John Lewis.

Street had described France as "sclerotic, hopeless and downbeat" and "finished". He later apologised.

"Everyday I read your press, I listen and I watch what is being said about France," Valls said in London. "Too often I see in some of your newspapers some bias, prejudices and attacks as well."

Valls also hit out at Street's remarks at a lunch with influential British journalists, who reported their encounter on Twitter.

"Just lunched with French PM Manuel Valls. Said Andy Street from John Lewis must have 'drunk too much beer' when slagged France as 'finished'," Daily Telegraph international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote on Twitter.

Sky News political editor Faisal Islam took the view that "on France Valls amazingly candid, talking about two lost years of Hollande presidency, and the social economic "identity crisis".

National broadcaster the BBC chose the headline "French PM meets David Cameron and attacks UK 'caricature'".

The Daily Telegraph published several articles on the visit, including an analysis entitled "Is France really finished?" by Kings College London political economy lecturer Alexandre Alfonso.

"The country is often considered as a universal case of economic failure, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, described as paralysed, arrogant, delusional and hugely uncompetitive...So are the accusations true?" it asked.

The analysis examined cliches such as long lunch breaks, frequent strikes and a sinking economy, concluding that some were true, and others undeserved.

However, an acerbic comment piece by the newspaper's deputy editor Allister Heath was headlined "France's stagnation is tragic to watch".

"For all its reformist talk France's government will merely rearrange the deckchairs," Heath wrote. "Valls ought to be learning lessons from John Lewis, not rudely dismissing him."

The theme of challenging stereotypes also made its way to the International New York Times, which is based in Paris.

Its front page carried a profile of 36-year-old former investment banker and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, with the headline "France's new banker-Socialist".

"Despite his youth, Mr. Macron has been a major force behind a recent shift by the politically struggling Mr. Hollande toward a more centrist economic policy for France," the profile read.

© 2014 AFP

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