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The Week Unwrapped: French symbols, pay rises and spring

Is France about to take an illiberal turn? Is it a bad thing if we all earn more? And is winter coming to a premature end?

Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters.

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In this week’s episode, we discuss:

French footballers

A group of Muslim women is challenging a French ban on wearing headscarves while playing football. But this story is less about sport and more about Islamism in France, the impending elections in April and the rise of Eric Zemmour. Opinion polls suggest that just a few months before electing its next president, France is more right-wing than at any other point since the beginning of the Fifth Republic.

Wage spirals

As inflation ticked up month by month last year, central banks kept saying that it was “transitory” – a one-off bump, created by supply chain disruption caused by the big Covid shutdown. That may have been wishful thinking. What really freaks out central banks is “inflation expectations”. If people think prices will rise more quickly in the future, that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: they ask for higher salaries to compensate, which raises production costs – and they get passed on at the checkout. Now central banks and governments are trying to head off a spiral of rising salaries and prices.

Has spring sprung?

Rising global temperatures mean that Spring could arrive a month early this year after a study from the University of Cambridge found that flowers are blooming early. The average first flowering of plants in the UK is now a month earlier than in the period from 1753 to 1986. If temperatures rises continue, Spring could arrive in the UK as early as February say researchers. While we might welcome an early spring after a long winter, early blooming could have a devastating effect on the UK's ecology due to a phenomenon called “ecological mismatch”.

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