Voting fever is sweeping the nation, electoral rolls are being checked, the old guard is on the back foot, change is in the air, and the French army has been sent in to re-establish order even as the price of nickel has risen 20 per cent. Wait… What!

Yes – “Republican order in its entirety will be re-established”, said President Emmanuel Macron after landing in the Pacific territory of New Caledonia to join the 3,000 French troops deployed to end two weeks of rioting which have left six people dead. What’s that got to do with the price of nickel? A lot. New Caledonia is the world’s fourth biggest supplier of the metal, the third is Russia, which we’ll come back to. But first, some history and some geography.

The archipelago that makes up New Caledonia lies 930 miles east of Australia (and 10,000 miles south of France). It was annexed in 1853 after the French colonialists realised its strategic value and mineral wealth and it became a French overseas territory in 1946. Since then, opposition to France has grown among the indigenous Kanak population which now makes up only about 112,000 of the roughly 270,000 strong population. The descendants of the European colonists, and people from France who have moved there in recent decades, are known as “Caldoches”.