“I wouldn’t hold French shares,” said Nigel Farage with a wink, belying his previous life as a stockbroker. “The country is in real trouble,” the Ukip leader told me at an investment conference in London last week. “As someone who loves France, it gives me no pleasure to say that”.
While Farage casually dishes out advice to sell French stocks, he knows only too well that, for all his admiration of Gallic gastronomy and tabacs, the singular weakness of the French economy, and related political fall-out, is playing into his hands.
“There are lots more kids on the street these days”, says Mohammed Trabelsi, trying not to gulp his coffee. “They don’t write that in the newspapers but it’s true. When my parents came here, France had lots of work. Now it has lots of fascists”.
Trabelsi is 23 years old. Born in Paris, to Tunisian immigrant parents, he holds a French passport and speaks good French. He is polite and articulate yet despite “searching every day”, he can’t find work. Having fallen through various social safety nets, and now deeply dejected, Trabelsi lives on the streets.
“I want a job but when the economy is down, there’s nothing for people like me,” he says, as we sit in a café in the French capital. “Some friends started dealing drugs and now they are dead. I have dreams and want to get on but the politicians do nothing. I still believe in myself, but some days it’s hard”.