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Emmanuel Macron’s latest fantasy: order, order!

Jupiter is now the police President. Credit: Getty

July 27, 2023 - 5:45pm

Emmanuel Macron this week gave an address from the French département of New Caledonia, calling for “order, order, order” in support of his increasingly fractious police forces. The speech in the middle of the Pacific came shortly after four Marseille police officers were charged with beating an alleged suspect during this summer’s riots, “leaving him for dead”. 

The decision to detain one of the men, who shot the victim in the head with a rubber bullet, was denounced by national police chief Frédéric Veaux, who said that “ahead of a possible trial, a police officer should not be in prison, even if he may have committed serious faults or errors in the course of his work”. France’s police, despite its obvious faults, is still broadly popular, especially as the country was shocked by the violence, pillage and destruction wrought over several days by nihilistic young rioters without slogans or leaders.

Whether Macron’s Pacific speech indicates a real turning point in French policing is debatable, as the President has a habit of saying what he feels will most appeal to public opinion. Indeed, there is a “Macron political compass” meme doing the rounds on social media, listing his more tub-thumping utterances from “Marshall Pétain was a great soldier in WWI” to “France committed crimes against humanity in Algeria”. After six years, most of the country has stopped treating such declarations as anything but performative.

The French President’s support for the police is complicated by what he increasingly sees as the failings of their real boss, current Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, who is one of the rare truly political characters in a Cabinet mostly adorned with nonentities. Darmanin, a former Les Républicains member, was picked as a law-and-order figurehead who would spare the President exactly the kind of troubles France has just been through, and who would balance out the Left-wingers in the Cabinet.

It says a lot about Darmanin’s weakness that neither Veaux nor Paris police chief Laurent Nuñez, who tweeted his support of the former, has been sanctioned for their actions. Only recently, in a parliamentary debate on the riots and their instigators, the minister referred to French police as “children of 18, 19, 20 years of age, who never got a great education […] I’m not at the head of the Ministry of Justice, where people have chosen to take competitive exams after graduate and post-graduate studies.” 

There is some truth to this. It has become so difficult to hire new cops that the duration of their training has been reduced from one year to eight months. They feel — with some justice — that they are overworked, underpaid, sent into dangerous situations in areas where they can be greeted by anything from mortar and shotgun fire to washing machines being dropped on their head from the upper floors of council housing buildings. Their suicide rate is also strikingly and persistently high, leading to a surge in resignations.

Understandably, the police felt insulted by their own boss. Darmanin was mirroring an incident when Macron called the workers of a Breton pork slaughterhouse “illiterate”, which predictably went down like un ballon en plomb. The gendarmes, however, are part of the military, far better trained, and provide the country with elite anti-terrorist and special intervention units.

Macron has just performed a hesitant Cabinet reshuffle, in which unknowns have been replaced by other unknowns, and the hopes of some — including Darmanin, who wanted PM Élisabeth Borne’s job — were dashed. The President will therefore be hoping for a relatively harmonious few months ahead. His new, or at least renewed, law-and-order stance is essentially a propitiatory offering to the gods of spin: the country is still €3 trillion in debt, and it’s unlikely it can hire new police troops. Better yield to them, and consider the political consequences later.


Anne-Elisabeth Moutet is a Paris-based journalist and political commentator.

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Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

I quote from Mme Moutet’s excellent article:
“Whether Macron’s Pacific speech indicates a real turning point in French policing is debatable, as the President has a habit of saying what he feels will most appeal to public opinion.”
Precisely. And it is an observation which might be justly applied to almost any current western leader. And yet, with equal accuracy, we note that they rarely do as the public wishes. Indeed, on crime, migration, taxation, “green” policies, transport and agriculture they do the exact opposite.
Conclusion: they are either themselves a grisly cabal; or – worse – they are front men.
They have or obey an agenda which is rigid, trans-national, anti-democratic and ever more unhinged. A fortiori, it is increasingly intolerant; and its agents in the media – dismayed by the unexpected obstinacy and success of Mr Farage – are now openly proclaiming the right of banks and other institutions to club together in the persecution of those whom they deem heretical.
There was always going to be a time when “nudge” became “shove” and the left, losing the patience which has carried it so far in recent decades, is now showing both its nature and its hand. As a result, there is every risk that it will now use any excuse to clamp down finally on all dissent and save its appalling programme by means of naked authoritarian brutality.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

I quote from Mme Moutet’s excellent article:
“Whether Macron’s Pacific speech indicates a real turning point in French policing is debatable, as the President has a habit of saying what he feels will most appeal to public opinion.”
Precisely. And it is an observation which might be justly applied to almost any current western leader. And yet, with equal accuracy, we note that they rarely do as the public wishes. Indeed, on crime, migration, taxation, “green” policies, transport and agriculture they do the exact opposite.
Conclusion: they are either themselves a grisly cabal; or – worse – they are front men.
They have or obey an agenda which is rigid, trans-national, anti-democratic and ever more unhinged. A fortiori, it is increasingly intolerant; and its agents in the media – dismayed by the unexpected obstinacy and success of Mr Farage – are now openly proclaiming the right of banks and other institutions to club together in the persecution of those whom they deem heretical.
There was always going to be a time when “nudge” became “shove” and the left, losing the patience which has carried it so far in recent decades, is now showing both its nature and its hand. As a result, there is every risk that it will now use any excuse to clamp down finally on all dissent and save its appalling programme by means of naked authoritarian brutality.

David McKee
David McKee
11 months ago

Macron: Jupiter, with a wildly swinging moral compass. He makes Starmer look a model of consistency.
He’s out of options, and soon he will be out of time. Then it will be Le Pen’s big chance.

Andrew F
Andrew F
11 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

And going by last election Presidential debates, she is not up to a job. Unfortunately.
Look at Italy, new boss and boats are still coming.
Answers are obvious, but no politician has a will to act.

Andrew F
Andrew F
11 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

And going by last election Presidential debates, she is not up to a job. Unfortunately.
Look at Italy, new boss and boats are still coming.
Answers are obvious, but no politician has a will to act.

David McKee
David McKee
11 months ago

Macron: Jupiter, with a wildly swinging moral compass. He makes Starmer look a model of consistency.
He’s out of options, and soon he will be out of time. Then it will be Le Pen’s big chance.

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
11 months ago

He wants the parents of young rioters to keep them at home. He must have missed sociology class

Andrew F
Andrew F
11 months ago

He was too busy shaging his teacher.
Which is great when young. But not 30 years later

Last edited 11 months ago by Andrew F
Andrew F
Andrew F
11 months ago

He was too busy shaging his teacher.
Which is great when young. But not 30 years later

Last edited 11 months ago by Andrew F
Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
11 months ago

He wants the parents of young rioters to keep them at home. He must have missed sociology class

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
11 months ago

“the President has a habit of saying what he feels will most appeal to public opinion. After six years, most of the country has stopped treating such declarations as anything but performative.”
Doesn’t that apply to virtually any politician in the Western world?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Yes, they decide policy based on social media likes.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

No they all do what Klaus tells em to do.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
11 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

No they all do what Klaus tells em to do.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
11 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Yes, they decide policy based on social media likes.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
11 months ago

“the President has a habit of saying what he feels will most appeal to public opinion. After six years, most of the country has stopped treating such declarations as anything but performative.”
Doesn’t that apply to virtually any politician in the Western world?

Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago

That meme the writer refers to is a cracker!

Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago

That meme the writer refers to is a cracker!