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How Macron made France a laughing stock He's a political novice with no ideas of his own, according to a new biography

Less god than boy-king. Credit: Chesnot/Getty

Less god than boy-king. Credit: Chesnot/Getty


January 11, 2021   6 mins

A president in his last days in office, flailing and failing. No, not Donald Trump: Emmanuel Macron. Elected to the ÉlysĂ©e Palace in 2017, Macron was meant to be the West’s wunderkind, the thinking person’s politician who would escape the tectonic plates of the Socialists and the Republicans, the two parties that have alternated power forever in France. He was the smart-as-paint former minister of François Hollande (read: caring, moderate Leftie decrying “social and statutory conservatism”), but from a banking background (read: sensible, fiscal Rightist). He was the liberal solution to populism in Europe — the antidote to Salvini, Orban, and, of course, France’s very own Marine Le Pen of the National Front.

Macron was the centrist modernist who was going to lead a tradition-shackled nation into a brave, new de-regulated future. His embrace of opposing ideologies, akin to Tony Blair’s “triangulation”, even had its own fond nickname: l’en-mĂȘme-temps-ism, “both-sides-at-the-same-time-ism”.

It has all gone wrong. These days Macron cannot put an expensively-shoed foot right. Always, he steps in the merde. The laws on retirement reform and unemployment assistance? Suspended. Deficit and debt are going through the roof, while GDP is going through the floor; GDP decline in France in 2020 was 10%, double that of Germany. After a spate of Islamist terror attacks — France is the worst hit of all western nations, 270 deaths since 2012 — Macron has pushed forward a bill on security that has caused a crisis because of a provision restricting the filming of police officers. Human rights groups have shouted foul (thus denting Macron’s socially liberal image just a tad). The anti-lslamist war in the Sahel has become bogged down in the dust and the sand.

And, as if all this were not enough, Macron has mismanaged the Covid crisis. France, now on her second lockdown, has one of the highest infection rates in the developed world; the official death toll of 43,000 fails to adequately account for mortality in the maison. The country is under 8pm curfew, except for those areas where it is …6pm curfew. Everywhere, bars, restaurants and cinemas are shut. It might just be me, but Alouette radio seems to be playing The Specials Ghost Town rather a lot nowadays. Oh, and the ‘speedy’ virus variant that swept Britain is now out and about in France.

Then, there is the debacle of covid vaccination. According to the French health ministry, just 516 people had received the vaccination by January 3; in the same time frame, 200,000 people were immunised in Germany. In Bloomberg’s global vaccination tracker France is second…from last.

The deputy president of National Rally (nĂ©e National Front), Jordan Bardella, declared that France had become the “laughing stock of the world”. Bardella could be expected to take a jab at Macron; more worrying for the President was the attitude of the French media whose default stance is to throw itself as an ideological Praetorian Guard around him (elites recognise their own with the keen certitude of dogs sniffing bottoms), but even Le Monde was prompted to ask, “Is France getting the dunce’s hat in Europe for vaccinations?”

There are just over 440 days before the next presidential election in France, and Macron unashamedly kicked off campaigning with his address to the nation on New Year’s Eve. He was not convincing. Usually, he manages the facsimile of Napoleonic grandeur in such broadcasts; this time he impersonated a snake-oil salesman. He tried to sell us a vision of a France resurgent by springtime, aided and abetted economically by an ever bigger and more prosperous EU, and with the Hexagon’s inhabitants blossoming in health due to vaccination.

Some hope. Aside from the problems with roll-out, an opinion poll by Ipsos Global Advisor indicates just 40% of French intend to have the coronavirus vaccine.

Or indeed, Macron’s medicine generally. The President’s fiscal policies have mostly helped the wealthy — despite increased state spending to defuse the Gilets Jaunes protests — and remain unpopular outside Paris’ plushest Arrondissements. The domestic political schedule is, to put it euphemistically, challenging, beginning with next month’s “law consolidating republican principles” intended to reinforce French life against any group or ideology that promotes its own agenda at the expense of liberty, equality and fraternity. While the government claims complete neutrality, absolutely no one is persuaded. Not least France’s large Muslim population.

Truth be told, Macron looks odder and more remote every passing day. While France suffers, the President spends  ÂŁ540,709 per annum… on flowers. Beleaguered, and unpopular — his ratings are just 34% favourable — Macron has one tactic, and one tactic only for re-election, which is to tack Right, where the votes seem to be, given the laughable nature of the French Left. Then further Right again.

Reshuffling his cabinet, Macron replaced, significantly and signally, his Left-leaning interior minister with a conservative law-and-order hard-liner, GĂ©rald Darmanin. Once upon a liberal dream time, Macron expressed scepticism about laĂŻcitĂ©, the strict application of the secularism so dear to the heart of France, warning it could be used as a weapon against Islam. These days, he tells L’Express magazine: “They said I was a multiculturalist and I never was”, and gets Darmanin to helm the law on republican principles. When asked by online news site Brut whether he was concerned that his global image had changed from that of a “modern, liberal president” to “an authoritarian president”, Macron answered simply, “I don’t care.”

But nothing, nothing has so intrigued the watchers of political weather and Macron’s voyage rightwards than the recently reported lunch in a Montparnasse brasserie between Macron’s advisor Bruno Roger-Petit and Marion MarĂ©chal. The niece of Marine Le Pen, and ex-RN deputy for Vaucluse, MarĂ©chal is the Great Hard Right Hope of France, the beautiful princess across the Loire. Whether Roger-Petit was picking up political tips, or divining MarĂ©chal’s presidential intentions is unknown. She has declared she has no wish for confrontation with her aunt, and disavowed running in 2022. But who knows?

Macron’s enthusiastic embrace of law-and-order and nationalist themes has — quelle surprise! — reduced Left support for his party, La RĂ©publique en Marche! Some 36 red/green LREM deputies have quit the fold in France’s lower house, depriving Macron of an outright majority. LREM is expected to be all but wiped-out in this summer’s nation-wide local elections. Mind you, LREM was never much more than a fissiparous fan-club for Manu.

It is not just on the home front that Macron has dropped the liberal, cultured clothing to reveal himself a puny De Gaulle seeking a chest-expander. On matters foreign, he has taken to Trump-type Twitter diplomacy, calling Nato “brain dead” and regularly chiding other national leaders — though chippily brooking no external criticism himself. When Greece and Turkey spatted last year Macron engaged in gunboat diplomacy. Literally. He sent a frigate to their end of the Med.

Gone, too, is Macron’s globalist vision, to be replaced by Fortress France thinking. Only the other day he was down on the Spanish frontier, promising to stop illegal immigration by doubling border guard numbers to 4,800. Schengen free travel anyone? On 7 January, the border with Britain was once again shut to keep out the plague. (Mind you, I am not sure anyone can blame him for that, given that Bungling Boris is more than a match for Mismanaging Macron in covid containment.)

All of which leads to Président cambrioleur (The Burglar President), the recently published biography of Macron by journalist Corinne Lhaïk, who has shadowed her man for over a decade. The book is written with the cooperation of Manu and his wife Brigitte, but whether such aid was wise or an arrogant folly is arguable, to say the least.

Oui, Macron emerges from LhaĂŻk’s pages as cultivated, brainy, possessed of superior “abstract intelligence” — an absolute plus in France, which does not share the English contempt for intellectuals. LhaĂŻk finds something touching too in his marriage to Brigitte, who “humanises him”. He needs it, since the Macron revealed by LhaĂŻk — who is, by the way, neither political dirt-digger or publishing gold-digger — is damning.

Macron is exposed as a political novice, unable to understand the relationship between the Elysee and Hotel Matignon, the residence of the prime minister, and burdened by the autocratic misapprehension that his word is a reality implemented.

It gets worse. Macron has a “brat side”, a tendency to childish provocation, and “lacks emotional intelligence”. He whines, just as ValĂ©ry Giscard dÂŽEstaing did, that the French misunderstand him (“The French do not know who I am”), just as his family failed to comprehend his schoolboy absquatulation with Brigitte, his drama teacher and 26 years his senior.

He cannot delegate, or choose the right people, and is uninterested in the necessary presidential political art of winning friends and influencing people. So, even with the war in the Sahel — where some 6,000 French troops are valiantly, gloriously holding the line against Islamic insurgents, a just war if ever there there was one — receives next to no support from the Western powers it protects. Macron has utterly failed to build an international coalition of the willing.

The Macron in these pages has no core values, but keeps himself in power “by pecking the crumbs” of other people’s ideas — then opportunistically dropping them, embracing others if the public appetite changes. He might not be the West’s most unpopular and villainous president right now, but the man once nicknamed Jupiter for his lack of humility now resembles less a god than a Dauphin.


John Lewis-Stempel is a farmer and writer on nature and history. His most recent books are The Sheep’s Tale and Nightwalking.

JLewisStempel

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Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

Someone wise once said to me that “Every generation has to learn for itself about Labour”. It was a comment on the popularity of Labour among the young, and notes simply that the party is supported by people who don’t know what it’s actually like. Older people, who have seen Labour governments and found out what Labour is like, vote for other parties instead.

I wonder if the same is true of Blair-type figures. The ‘demon eyes’ poster nailed Blair perfectly for me, but then in 1997, I could remember 80s “loony Labour” councils and, just about, 1974 to 1979. So I was never going to be fooled. But others were. Maybe each country needs its own oily, sleazy, sinister, amoral, cynical, mendacious, homicidal, unprincipled creep in order to learn not to elect another one.

Had Blair inherited the economy Macron inherited, he would presumably have lasted only about as long.

Tony Stephens
Tony Stephens
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Absolutely nailed it Tyrone !!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Stephens

I agree

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

In the 1980s, it was pensioners who voted disproportionately for Labour, while the young voted for Thatcher. (Still, I guess the same premise applied; a pensioner in the 1980s could remember how badly the Tories governed in the 1930s).

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

That’s probably accurate. If you were born in say 1910 and could personally remember the 1930s, Suez and Profumo, you weren’t going to be nailing your colours to the blue mast in 1979.

Sean MacSweeney
Sean MacSweeney
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

i remembered the Heath government of the early 70’s, so I would have voted in my first general election in 78 for Labour. But Callaghan bottled it in October and after the 78-79 winter of discontent I happily voted for Milk snatcher Thatcher as Labour was seen as a total failure by that time in Early May 79

Martin Davis
Martin Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Well, either we didn’t learn from Blair (curates egg, I would say), or we are having a second dose of the ‘vaccine’ in Boris (should guarantee some lasting immunity). Macron’s congenital over-exposure avoids consideration of the quality of his ministers. But with Boris’s periodic shyness, his lot are all too evidently in the public eye, and not to their advantage.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Davis

You may be right but I think the Tories will win big again in 2024 with or without Boris. On fair boundaries their majority would be 100-odd, and you don’t overturn that in one heave.

Maybe less obviously, I think the woke / BLM nonsense of today is the equivalent to the loony-left electoral gift to the Tories of the 1980s. All Thatcher had to say was “If you want to know what Labour would be like in government, look at what Labour is like in local government.”

I think we’ll see that line or something very like it dusted off in 2024.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Yes, just another empty fraud. Remember when the front cover of The Economist pictured him walking on water? And they wonder why we hold the MSM in such contempt.

On the plus side, there are rumours that Blair is dreaming returning to high office, De Gaulle style. So why doesn’t he combine those two objectives by becoming President of France? After all. he’s an expert on running successful wars in hot, unpleasant place so I’m sure he can fix the Sahel campaign, and we are told that he has a lot of good ideas to do with vaccination programmes. This really could kill an entire flock of oiseau with one stone.

The word ‘absquatulation’ is new to me and a welcome addition to my vocabulary.

Stanley Beardshall
Stanley Beardshall
3 years ago

You folk seem to have drifted off-topic; the article is about Macron, not UK politics. Having lived here in “la France profonde” for 30 years, I know a little about the non-Parisian French and can assure you that the majority only voted Manu in because of disgust with the alternatives. Ring any bells?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

I wonder if France’s major problems aren’t fundamentally insoluble.

The public sector is huge and everyone wants to work in it because it’s so cushy. Private companies are crippled by high taxes and disastrous labour laws. There’s a high risk, now Britain’s out of the EU, that France will try to inflict a Tobin tax on its finance industry. The state thinks nobody will notice it and anyway bankers don’t riot, but if that happens, France’s financial industry will be coming here.

I once interviewed for a job in France and in the course of the conversation the post-tax salary was mentioned. I asked what it was pre-tax and nobody in the room knew. They’re so inured to taxes they aren’t even curious to know how much they pay.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

It has been obvious for many years that France’s problems are fundamentally insoluble. The same applies to many or most western countries, probably including the US. This is for reasons too deep and varied to go into here. Quite frankly, all one can do over the next few years is stand back and watch the further, and possibly accelerating, collapse.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The problems are not ‘fundamentally insoluble’.
The problem is the solutions are fundamentally indigestible.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Yes. I should have added that the problems are soluble, but only by applying remedies that will be distinctly unpalatable to all of those who benefit from the status quo. Unfortunately, politicians are among those who benefit from the status quo, so the problems will not be solved.

George H
George H
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

My guess is that they weren’t talking about the post-tax salary; they were talking about the ‘net imposable’, which is the salary after the various social security contributions (which are the same for everybody, regardless of the number of dependents and so on) have been deducted but before income tax is paid. But it’s very true that most French people have generally had no idea of what their gross salary is. Now that most people’s income taxes are being deducted at source as well (which is recent), I don’t know if there will be a shift in how people think in terms of what they’re paid. After all, there is no longer a ‘net imposable’ that you use as a basis when you make your declaration for income tax purposes, as you don’t have to make a declaration…

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago

But that ‘disgust’ isn’t going to last much longer. And perhaps nor should it.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago

It’s funny how all the leaders of big western-eurpean countries are judged in a negative way because of the Covid-19-deathrate. As if the measures were not enough and could have prevented the death. Humankind just can not understand that viruses are some of the last phenomena in nature, just like tornado’s and earthquakes, that more or less have their way, irrespective of all the bla,bla,bla and measures we invent. The real disaster, in this case, lies in the measures themselves. So the people who asked for the measures should look at themselves.

Jonathan Munday
Jonathan Munday
3 years ago

The people never look at themselves

Simon H
Simon H
3 years ago

Pop the TV on in France nowadays and be bombarded with advertising PC nonsense, quaff haired bearded men in aprons holding Pyrex dishes up to the sunlight, suited women checking their watches confidently striding into the office, mixed race families at the dinner table with the male more often serving dinner, little Serge opening a present form Grandma on Xmas day, a makeup set! Im not joking.
I could go on. Its ridiculous, completely over the top…

David Green
David Green
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon H

Not much different to uk tv.

John Nutkins
John Nutkins
3 years ago
Reply to  David Green

Indeed not. In some advertising breaks on major TV channels, the commercials feature mainly, if not wholly, black people (am I supposed to say ‘people of colour’? No, not brown or yellow, but black), giving the strong impression that this country is dominated by them. I regard it as a profound insult to the overwhelming majority of non-black people living here.

Now I would not usually have been bothered by all this, but since the discriminatory, divisive, racist and grossly insulting BLM has reared its very ugly head in Britain, supported by unctuous, oleaginous, sanctimonious, sycophantic and hypocritical institutions like the Football Association, Sky TV, the Premier League and all its obscenely overpaid multi-millionaire players, 33% of whom are black in a population where the general representation is 3% and many of whom raise clenched fists while ‘taking the knee’, my consciousness and awareness have been keened by the gratuitous insult the supposedly oppressed and racially abused ‘victims’ suffer as the result of ‘inequality’ and ‘lack of opportunity’. Really?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  John Nutkins

Blimey. Black people in adverts. Profoundly insulting.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

The promise to double the number of border guards a few weeks ago amused me. France has land borders with six countries – or eight if you count Monaco and Andorra. Anyway, there will now be 800 border guards for each of the six major borders (I will count Luxembourg as a major border). So, that’s about 265 per shift. Factor in sickness, holidays and strikes and you’re down to about to about three border guards per shift, per border.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It could be worse than that – aren’t border guards necessary at every French airport with international connections? Do they come out of the 800?

Even if not, presumably these border guards just guard the roads. What if the wily illegals enter the country by boat or cross-country?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Exactly. The French didn’t even spot Hitler’s armies coming through the Ardennes, so there’s no way they’ll pick up small groups of terrorists making their merry way through the forests and mountain passes etc.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

There’s a book called The Man Who Saved London about a terrifically brave French patriot who identified, located, reported and even provided construction blueprints of the V1 flying bomb sites to Britain. He was caught but didn’t talk.

Monsieur Hollard got his material into the hands of British intelligence for three years by the cunning ruse of climbing over a low wall from a French cow-field into a Swiss one.

Ze Germans didn’t let you into the border zone without an approved pass. But once you were in there, they only checked the roads, too. So M. Hollard just didn’t use roads when he crossed the border.

80 years on his wheeze still hasn’t been thwarted.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Well I suppose the French could use drones. The only problem, again, is that the drones would only work for 35 hours a week and be on strike most of the time.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

Worth reading for the word absquatulation alone.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Agreed!

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Absquatulate is a deeply silly word that means
to make off with something or someone. Why say a thief ran away withyour money when it’s much more fun to say he absquatulated with it?

The word absquatulate came out of an odd fad in America in the 1830s for making playful words that sounded vaguely Latin. Bloviate (“speak pompously”) and discombobulate (“make confused”) are two other pseudo-Latin coinages from that era. Absquatulate takes the word squat and adds the prefix ab- “off, away” and the verb ending -ulate to suggest getting up and leaving quickly. It’s hardly ever used nowadays, mostly showing up as an example of an absurd word.
(from Vocabulary.com)

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I had to look it up too, but thanks for the tip on bloviate, I didn’t know that was from the same stable.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

Such words add to the variety and enjoyment of life. Their use should be encouraged.

David McKee
David McKee
3 years ago

John, thank you so much for your witty, amusing, readable and highly informative commentaries on modern-day France. There are times when I am tempted to think that brusquely dismissive talking heads in Ile de France, with their contempt for the British and Brexit, speak for la France Profonde. You have restored my abiding affection for France and the French.

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago

When and why did the political world become so depleted of real leadership and statesmanship?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

This is a question that many of us have been asking for 10 or 15 years. The reasons are too deep and varied to be explored here in any depth, but surely one reason is the way in which the political class is almost entirely made up of people who have never done a single day of proper work in their lives. In particular, they have never done a single day’s work in the private sector, where you have to deliver more than you cost.

As a consequence of this total disconnection from real life they seem to have no understanding of cause and effect, that if you screw up their will be consequences, or that to every action there is a reaction. This is because they have lived exclusively in a world – the public sector and politics – where there really are no meaningful consequences when you screw up, and where there is no reason to think through the possible consequences of your actions.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

I was also quite keen on Macron at the start, although this positive attitude was quite strenuously rejected by almost all French people I know who don’t waste a second in applying the expletive of their choice to le président. Macron is like “Mutti” Merkel; they both enjoy quite good international reputations but their domestic voters aren’t anywhere near as keen.

In my eyes, Macron has produced a few good ideas and is really one of the only politicians to have come up with a body of thought about where the world is going and where Europe should be in it. For that you might salute him. There really aren’t many politicians out there thinking about the big picture and a big strategy to go with it. However, he doesn’t have any finesse at all – choosing to “move fast and break stuff” rather than build a coalition around his ideas with patience and diplomacy. Cue tutting from Berlin about “having to mend porcelain” that Macron has smashed…

The only thing saving Macron from the type of criticism aimed at the British government is that he sells himself as the ultimate European. And even that’s a farce as the recent freight blockade on the UK was blatantly about France’s own national interests and was played out on the backs of lorry drivers – most of whom were Romanian, Bulgarian, German etc. Some European! The French government’s role in the vaccination procurement mess in Europe will eventually come out in the wash.

Despite Macron’s lack of credibility, concrete results at home and diplomacy, I fear Germany’s own domestic paralysis and reluctance to take on a proper leadership role in Europe will result in France gaining even more power. Without the British to temper their influence, I can see European policy becoming a French dirigiste nightmare. The talk of creating “national champions”, chosen by politicians rather than the markets, can only represent a first taste.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Yes, to be fair to Macron he is one of the few politicians who seems to have thought about things at a macro scale, and he does sometime express those thoughts.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

And to be equally fair to him, he won’t permit a referendum on EU membership because he thinks the French would say NON.

Says it all really.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Mismanaging a pandemic??? Please say it isn’t so. We would much prefer a well managed pandemic. We’ll show those viruses how to behave!

Niels Georg Bach
Niels Georg Bach
3 years ago

Sorry, at the moment, it’s difficult to see someone else than Macron. French are a privileged people, just look at their pension rates. They enjoy longer and better pensions than most North Europeans, – who in Denmark at least pay for their own pensions through a clever political planned pension scheme -why should EU pay for French and italian pensions ?. Macron knows this.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago

The only thing I find strange is that the author questions whether NATO is brain dead…..it is.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago

He’s a bit of a cardboard cut out. Looks pretty I suppose – you need to if you’re going on the telly – and was sent off to Goldman to make a few bob for his piggybank. You need a bit of wonga. I’ve always thought he was a wierdo. I mean why would a 15 year old be desperate to marry his mummy ?? Maybe his time came a bit too early – he might have been more suitable come 2022, but now he seems to have blown it.

Thing is when you look the chattering classes foist people like Macron on us all and then are bewildered when the public elect Trump.

Linda Ethell
Linda Ethell
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Instead of a fifty-year-old desperate to marry his daughter?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

When we are in a position to look back at the COVID episode with light rather than heat, I reckon we’ll find that varying fatalities from one country to the next have had roughly nothing to do with the state response, and everything to do with local demography.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
3 years ago

Stanley Beardshall is absolutely correct. An interesting and thought provoking article on Macron and France has in large part resulted in yet further commentary on British politics. Fascinating. Does this substantiate the view that the British are basically uninterested in what is happening on the other side of La Manche? Maybe this is also something to do with our poor understanding of French and indeed all foreign languages -save American English? It might also explain Brexit. But there I go – down the rabbit hole of British politics again!ðƾ˜„

malcolm.rose
malcolm.rose
3 years ago

M. Macron was Economy Minister in the previous administration, Parti Socialiste, but which was hamstrung by its left wing extremists, led by Benoßt Hamon. Hamon now leads what is left of the PS and it’s marginalised.

M. Macron’s election (the only public office to which he’s ever been elected is President) also came at a time when France was fed up with scandal after scandal in the conservative party, which kept changing its name. I think they’ve settled on calling themselves the Republicans now.

France needs Marion to bring back the glamour of the Revolution. Marion is Marianne (symbol of the Revolution in her Phrygian bonnet).

Liberté (I do whatever I want)
Egalité (I don’t care what you think)
Fraternité (and I’ll do it with whomsoever I want)
…will be the rallying cry to get the young adult vote.

Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
3 years ago
Reply to  malcolm.rose

Hamon a radical? If Hamon is a radical then what about the largest left-wing party whose name is “Unbowed France” led by Jean Luc Melenchon, a anti-capitalist hardliner who openly talks about the ethnic and cultural “creolization” of French society.

Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
Noah Ebtihej Sdiri
3 years ago

Interesting read. Yet for all his flaws, Macron has every chances to be reelected because of abysmal quality of France’s opposition leaders. The Left has lost its mind and thus, despite all the simmering signs of a dysfunctional capitalist system, the French Left has virtually no chance to reach the second round of the 2022 presidential elections.

Over the last three decades, the French left has gradually adopted the views of progressive middle and upper-class urban voters on multiculturalism, migration, and environmental issues. In the same timespan however, the working-class’ has suffered from unemployment and declining standards of living. The lack of social status is especially felt among working-class voters living in small-town France which is experiencing a relentless and painful decline.

As jobs disappeared, working-class voters have watched with dismay the painful retreat of the welfare state from rural France: maternity clinics, post offices, local stores have disappeared from the centres of small towns. Consequently, feeling despised and ignored by Parisian elites, the native working-class has come to believe that its entire economic future has been sold down the river in favour of cheap foreign labor and goods.

The main beneficiary has been the Rassemblement National. However, the RN is led by Marine Le Pen who has the charisma of a rotten oyster. Her lack of economic vision has deterred many middle-class people from fully embracing the RN. Will the disgust generated by Macron be enough to push French voters to favour a more “nationalistic”, approach to governance; it’s hard to tell.

In the 19th century, as he was researching the causes of the 1789 and 1848 revolutions, Alexis de Tocqueville identified a common trend within French society. A static upper class insulated from the population cannot grasp the internal transformations taking place in society; it is unable to perceive change on the ground. Eventually, frustration leads to an uprising and the following chaos paves the way for the rise of an autocrat, thus bringing down the democratic regime. So far, post-revolution France has lived through four republics, each of them being brought down by episodes of large-scale violence. Tocqueville himself hoped that French social and political structures could gradually transform themselves from within, without succumbing to violent revolutionary fervor. If he was alive today, he would certainly warn current political and economic elites against the same decay that carried off the Ancien Régime. Once again, French ruling elites are “sleeping over a volcano”. It is in this context that France’s current ruling elites might be well advised to realize how fragile and tenuous their hold on power really is.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

‘So, even with the war in the Sahel ” where some 6,000 French troops are valiantly, gloriously holding the line against Islamic insurgents, a just war if ever there there was one ” receives next to no support from the Western powers it protects.’

The RAF, though in a non-combattant role, offers France very real support in providing three Chinooks as a means of moving French troops far farther than they would otherwise be able to operate in Sahel.

Trishia A
Trishia A
3 years ago

It’s been the trend in the past couple of decades, to hire handsome/beautiful PC heads of state, and they have all mostly failed. So to all the complainers that the old-white leaders had to go, the new young-uns have done strictly not better. The entire Western world, led by Canada/UK/Australia has fallen into a pit of PC incompetence and there is no light at the end of this tunnel since governments are messing up what little brightness there was.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago

Macron has never seemed that convincing a politician to me…I know, he’s the President of France…. and i’m just me…but what can you say other than what you think.
Underneath the surface shimmer of the expensive management consultancy suits and ties he looks like the guy the guy sends when the meeting isn’t important, but wouldn’t send in a million years when a deal really does need to be sealed.

That nonsense with blocking Calais to freight…typical really.

David Waring
David Waring
3 years ago

Ah Micro Managing Macron while is people cannot access fuel vaccines and have to suffer uncontrolled immigration?

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  David Waring

Isn’t the immigration issue more of a German directive though?

Galathea D
Galathea D
3 years ago

Evidently we haven’t read the same book, neither is France a laughing stock by any standards but, whatever.
Also, how are 18 months translated as last days in office?
Funny also that the author considers that a long interview with The Economist – yes, the one with the brains dead comment everyone focused on – is indulging in Trump-like Twitter diplomacy.
Come on, it is possible to make better criticism (even with a dose of vitriol) than this.

Kenneth Crook
Kenneth Crook
3 years ago

This is a remarkable piece of work. It’s non-fact-based, completely unbalanced and doesn’t seem to care too much about reality. It purports to be about a biography, but that only gets mentioned at the end. The rest is just a pile-on that doesn’t even make sense. I’m no fan of Macron, but what are the examples he gives? Dropping the pension reforms? After his government stood up against the strikes for months to bring forward a much-needed reform, it was put to one side temporarily due to the pandemic. It’ll be back. The Sahel? They’ve been trying to fight islamist terrorism pretty much on their own there, and have made a difference. Is it better to criticise that, or applaud the French for making an effort. Apparently it’s better to criticise. Low vaccine uptake? In a country where even smart people think that homeopathy works, there’s not much he can do about that: His polling approval went up recently. The attempt to criminalise filming police committing acts of criminality was stupid and has correctly been dropped. The meeting between Marion Maréchal and a Macron advisor, about which even he doesn’t know anything? Why even mention it? Shutting the border to keep out a new, highly contagious variant of SARS CoV2? Plenty other countries in Europe did it too. The majority of France’s Muslim population supports laïcité, but the author prefers to ignore that. He wants to attack Macron for his lack of substance (and there’s plenty there to attack), but maybe putting a bit more substance in his article, rather than Twitterish bile, would make for a better story.

A Woodward
A Woodward
3 years ago

“John Lewis-Stempel is a farmer and nature writer. ” Nuff said.