It is an absurd exaggeration to say that French industrial workers spend only three hours a day doing anything productive. Yet it is also the case that the 35-hour working week, combined with an entrenched role for unions within companies and intrusive labour rules, gives little flexibility for bosses. (...) Yet the damage to France’s image may be harder to shake off. At a time when the country has lost competitiveness to Germany, the economy is sliding into recession, taxes are at a record high, and the government has conceded that it will miss its deficit-reduction target for 2013, genuine concerns about the prospects of turning things around are wide-spread. Clara Gaymard, the French head of GE, an American conglomerate which successfully manufactures high-tech industrial stuff in France, put it well in her response to Mr Taylor’s letter. Yes, she said, “France’s image abroad is poor”. But “we are both a wonderful country and a very irritating one.