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Schadenfreude – When will they learn? Political footballs continue to be a gift to satirists

From French first ladies to the Swiss vote against European Union migration and the British government’s bugled response to the floods – our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude is spoilt for choice when it comes to satirical topics this week

It is a funny old world and that is a blessing for satirists. Take France. The President François Hollande is without a first lady – she is threatening to sue for wrongful dismissal – and his alleged second is not recognised in official protocol. So another prominent French lady has to be drafted in to sit beside President Barack Obama when he hosts Hollande at dinner. Madame Christine Lagarde becomes an honorary first lady. Why not hold a competition to find who should have the job, full-time, with perks?

Meanwhile in Britain, the government is losing its marbles. First it tells the House of Commons that a motion before it is illegal – restrictions on European Union immigration – but also tells members of the government not to vote against it. It takes the unelected House of Lords to get back to consistency.

Second, it tells the press that it gets rotten advice about flood prevention from the body which it set up to manage environmental matters – having also decided to reduce the said Environment Agency’s budget and curtail its work programmes.

Third, it tells the energy regulator to look into the possibility of breaking up the energy supply companies that are making large profits. The rationale for the collection of regulatory agencies is that they are insulated against the noise and heat of party politics.

Fourth, it is silent on the Swiss decision to pull out of free travel within the EU – which its own Europhobes want. It can say neither ‘well done’ nor ‘big mistake’. Fifth, the British Prime Minster David Cameron at last intervenes in the debate about Scottish independence but speaks out from the incongruous setting of the Olympic Village in England.

The ‘speech from Mount Olympus’ is a gift for the wily Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. He has frequently challenged the PM to debate with him in Scotland, preferably on television. Cameron declines in favour of asking the public in England to take over from him and lobby their Scottish friends to say ‘no’. It is not much of an example of the firm leadership, which the United Kingdom needs if it is to hold its union together. Anyone for a game of footy? Political football that is.

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