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Francois Hollande In London To Convince French Voters

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Francois Hollande and Labour leader Ed Miliband met on Wednesday
Francois Hollande and Labour leader Ed Miliband met on Wednesday

Francois Hollande has visited London in an effort to inspire those French voters who have exchanged French statism for British capitalism to vote in the impending presidential election.

The French consulate estimates that up to 400,000 French nationals may be resident in the UK, and their votes could prove decisive in the May poll.

Hollande's trip, during which he met Labour leader Ed Miliband, comes a day after he pledged to introduce a 75% tax on people who earn more than a million euros a year, calling it a "a patriotic act". He has also promised to undo tax breaks enacted by the incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

On Wednesday morning, he declared:

“This time of crisis is calling for exceptional measures.

“This tax is exceptional because the revenues are exceptional, because the time is exceptional, but it is sustainable because I want to send a very clear signal to the general assemblies of share-holders and to corporate executives, they cannot remunerate themselves to such exceptional levels.”

His "exceptional" proposition drew some sharp responses.

Yannick Naud, the Mouvement Democrate (MoDem) Candidate for the Northern Europe Constituency of the French Parliament commented:

“The 75% income tax rate on incomes above €1m a year is one of the most demagogic proposals so far to be suggested in this French election. If we add social security costs and other taxes levied directly or indirectly, the total taxation of income would be pushed above 90%.

"His income tax plan will harm the French economy, particularly its financial services sector. London could be one of the main beneficiaries of such reckless economic policies."

Ministers from Mr Sarkozy's ruling UMP party also attacked the proposal; budget minister Valerie Pecresse Francois said Hollande "invents a new tax every week without ever proposing the smallest saving" while foreign minister Alain Juppe denounced the plan as "fiscal confiscation".

Hollande and his closest advisers first discussed the measure on 14 February on the same day an increase of 34% in the average income of the CAC 40 (Paris stock exchange index) company owners was announced. Their intention was to come up with a symbolically strong proposition, which would strike both the incomes and the minds.

The German daily Die Welt, described this measure as a decline back to the 1970s, when president Mitterand signed an alliance with his communist partners. In short, the Germans perceive Hollande as more “red” than what is admitted in France.

Mr Hollande's move to the left should however be seen in the context of what appears to be a French tendency. According to the latest polls, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far left presidential candidate, is attracting 9.5% of voters, a miracle for the leader of the French Communist Party, whose popularity has never exceeded 5% in the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen, the far right candidate, is left with less than three weeks to finish gathering the 500 required signatures of mayors or local officials to run for president. She has promises of 430 signatures so far. Le Pen's father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of racism and anti-semitism, stunned France and Europe as he made it into the run-off for the 2002 presidential elections.

The Left has not held presidential office since 1995, a period that has been matched by declining dynamism and credibility due to internal scrambles for power.

But as the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s largely unpopular five-year term approaches, the French electorate, frustrated with economic slowdown and high unemployment, appears to be looking leftwards.

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