The French have outsmarted us. In a bold and popular move, Francois Hollande has vowed to reduce fuel duty by 6 cents per litre to help the struggling Gallic economy. He's also going to get French fuel suppliers to share the cost with government and is talking about finding a permanent solution to rising domestic fuel costs. Some may say that France's agrarian economy relies heavily on diesel, but the reality is that Hollande knows that cash-strapped French consumers and businesses can't afford record fuel prices of 1.46 Euros. If the French can't afford to drive, they won't spend and the wheels of consumerism will slow dramatically.
But what's so embarrassing about all this is the breathless speed of the French reforms. I've been in France for the last month and their recession has only just started to kick-in. Shops are only just starting to have sales and reducing ticket prices. There's been no campaigns, no petitions, no strikes about fuel. Hollande and his advisors have just looked at the financial landscape and come to the obvious and urgent conclusion - economic growth will go down if you allow fuel prices to go up. But you don't need to be Voltaire to understand that one.
Our politicians though don't seem to have the clarity of vision of Monsieur Hollande, because here in the UK we're paying around 20p more per litre than the French so the cost to our economy of mounting fuel prices is even more serious. So who would have thought it? A minor French functionary who, before he was elected President went to work on a scooter, has quickly rolled out a growth policy that will massively benefit the French economy and hugely increase his political popularity. And he's done it in a Socialist country that doesn't really like cars and one that has an infinitely better public transport infrastructure than we do. What are we in the UK doing so wrong that we can't get our government to understand the perils of their current insane fuel duty policy? Vive La Republique.