Saturday, March 26, 2005

MacShane cons the French

There should be little surprise at the capacity of our noxious European minister, Denis MacShane, to cause offence – especially when he is referring to anyone who does not fawn over his beloved "Europe".

It was thus in August last that he mortally offended the Eurosceptic community in Britain by describing them as "latent xenophobes".

Now, with the lack of tact for which he is justly famous, he has had a go at the French – not that his Blog sees any problem with that, except that MacShane is supposed to be a British minister who is above all that.

Actually it is the French "nons" who have attracted MacShane's ire and, according to The Times, he has managed to mortally offend them as well.

His sin, written up by Charles Bremner, is that he made a pun during a talk to students in Bordeaux on Thursday night. He warned them, in French, not to listen to "the reactionaries, the neoconservatives, the neo-communists and les neo-cons who are trying to persuade you that voting 'no' to the treaty is a good thing."

Unfortunately, the word con is a term of vulgar abuse, roughly translating as arse or stupid bugger.

This has attracted a sharp response from Henri Emmanuelli, a former minister and one-time Socialist leader, who has broken with his party line to campaign against the constitution.

He has demanded that Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the prime minister, must react. "In the name of the French men and women who have been insulted in this manner, and in the name of the parliamentarians who have been grossly vilified, I ask M Raffarin to demand apologies from the British Government," he said.

As we know from old, however, it is not MacShane's style to apologise for anything. But perhaps les Frogs are being a little unfair to the man, as he may not have intended the pun. After all, he is also well known for not knowing his con from his coude.

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