I can remember as a schoolboy in 1968 watching TV footage of the merry month of May in Paris, when first students, then intellectuals and then unionists started ripping up cobblestones to hurl at the police. There they stood, in the flickering light of burning barricades, their chants of “CRS-SS” taunting the massed ranks of the paramilitary guardians of the peace. The poster child, Franco-German University of Paris student Daniel Cohn-Bendit - his red hair joining his politics in earning him the newspaper soubriquet of Dany le Rouge - seemed ubiquitous that month, although in fact his influence was probably less than we assumed, as he pretty soon retreated to St Nazaire, amongst the (inevitable) internal squabbling of the political left. In truth, I don’t think I or my schoolfriends (with the sad exception of the over-politicised few) had more than a very vague idea of what the protests were all about. As I recall, all I was aware of was a demand for free access to the female students’ dormitories, and - let’s face it - how many teenage schoolboys wouldn’t have gone along with that one?
There was a lot more going on than that, though, which I don’t need to go into here, but les Evènements did bring about significant change, not least in convincing the population that France could handle Gaullism without de Gaulle, as the old president stepped down not that many months later.
So why bring this fifty year old stuff up now?
Well, the last few weekends - particularly the last one at the end of November - have produced scenes which look somewhat reminiscent of that time; protests against Emmanuel Macron’s rule - particularly but not exclusively the ramping up of fuel prices - seem to have caught the government off its guard. Rioting, burning cars, hurling stones at the police - looks just like a replay. I’m not going to fall into the traditional British trap of saying, “Oh, the French, rioting again….” because quite frankly given the complete mess of our ‘government’ right now, we are really in no position to criticise.
Those now expecting some serious comment will be disappointed. It’s coming up to Christmas, at the end of a pretty undistinguished year, so it’s time for a little levity. That introduction was simply to bring in the name of Emmanuel Macron, as the source of a new parlour game, just right for Boxing Day. Unhappy with the state of French party politics, Emmanuel started his own new party, which swept to power at its first attempt. It’s called En Marche! - see what he did there? The party and its leader have the same initials! Sort of Gaullism for the age of acronyms?
Anyway, that’s the premise of the game. Everybody has to come up with an apposite name for a political party, using the initial letters of the names of one of its leading lights. When you’ve all done it, you can have a referendum on which is best. And then, because for sure that won’t satisfy all the players, you can have another referendum, or “players’ vote”, as we may well call the second (third, fourth, fifth…) attempt.
So let’s get started.
My first shot would be “Totally Mediocre” for our current Prime Minister’s party.
“Just Clueless” for the main opposition.
“Vacuous, Crapulous”, for the old boy.
“Never Sassenach!”, for those north of the border.
“Completely Loopy” (subtle one there, for a one-MP party).
And to prove we’re international at heart, how about “Arrivederci Mutti” (won’t be valid long……)?
Or, for our transatlantic cousins, “(It’s enough to give you the) DTs”.
Anyway, you get the picture - hours of harmless fun for the whole family. Out of respect to grannies and children whose delicate ears need protecting, we may have to rule out the obvious second word for the (former) UKIP leader, of metal-trading fame………… Oh, and I can’t resist “Total Bullshit” for one who quit to cuddle his money a few years ago.