Date with history: Mitterrand rises to power

May 10, 1981: Denis MacShane on an influential French president too often underrated

The World Today Published 2 April 2021 Updated 10 June 2021 2 minute READ

Denis MacShane

Former Minister of State for Europe, United Kingdom

Four decades ago on May 10, 1981, I was crammed with maybe a half a million others in Paris to celebrate the election of François Mitterrand as the first socialist president of France in the Fifth Republic. 

For the 1968 generation it was a moment to savour. Margaret Thatcher was in Downing Street and Ronald Reagan in the White House. They were reversing the post-1945 settlement based on an economy that was devoted as much to the public good as private profit, that taxed the rich more than the poor and opened government doors to listen to trade unions.

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