by John Lichfield
Friday, 4
March 2022

Emmanuel Macron’s party is filled with odd-balls and misfits

En Marche has many colourful characters

A sole French parliamentarian, Buon Tan, voted recently against a resolution condemning China’s repression of its Ouigour minority as “genocide”. 

Was he a Communist with a Capital C? No. The pro-Beijing ballot was cast by a member of the ruling party, President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM).

Until recently, the Cambodian-born Buon Tan was known mostly as the richest and least active of the 577 members of the Assemblée Nationale. Now, the newspaper Le Monde has published an investigation linking Mr Tan with the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. It reports that Macron’s party, then only-one-year old, was warned against Mr Tan by the French security services in 2017. LREM nonetheless endorsed him as its candidate in the eastern part of the Paris Left Bank, an area with a large Asian population. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Friday, 11
February 2022

Nicolas Sarkozy plays coy in French election campaign

The former French president has refused to endorse Valerie Pécresse

For a man Barack Obama once described as prone to “emotional outbursts”, Nicolas Sarkozy’s involvement in this year’s French campaign has been rather muted.

That is, until the last few days in which the former president has let it be known that he will snub a big rally in northern Paris on Sunday — where Valerie Pécresse, the candidate of his centre-Right party is expected to lay out her “vision” for the future of France.

In private remarks reported in the French media this week, and probably intended to be so, Sarkozy savaged Pécresse’s limp campaign. She is, the former President complained, both “non-existent” and “all over the place”. Worse, from his viewpoint, she often praises the late centre-Right President Jacques Chirac and rarely mentions Sarko. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 31
January 2022

Grading the French Left: less than adequate

The highly touted popular primary failed to unify Left-wingers

You can take the teacher out of the classroom but you cannot take the classroom out of the teacher.

The Popular Primary of the Left, just completed, was invented by French academics in an attempt to create a strong and united Left-wing campaign for the French presidential elections in April.

The seven candidates were graded like undergraduates or PhD students with scores ranging from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’. The winner, Christiane Taubira, a former Socialist justice minister, received a “bien plus” (somewhat better than good). Anne Hidalgo, the official Socialist candidate, came fifth with “passable plus” (slightly more than adequate). The last of the seven candidates, an unknown 24 years old, Anna Agueb-Porterie, was judged “insuffisant” (inadequate).    ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 24
January 2022

It’s transfer season on the French hard Right

Three politicians defect from Marine Le Pen to Éric Zemmour

The transfer window is open on the French hard-Right.

Two politicians elected to the European Parliament under the banner of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National have defected to her ultra-nationalist rival, Éric Zemmour. So has a parliamentary assistant.

Two of them are moderately big fish. The best known is Gilbert Collard, a celebrity lawyer turned politician who has been a fellow traveller of Lepennism for 10 years. He was elected to the national parliament and then the European parliament on an RN ticket but never actually joined her party. 

The other renegade Euro MP, Jérôme Rivière used to belong to the main centre-Right party, Les Républicains, then called the UMP. He joined Le Pen in 2017 and was a spokesman for her campaign in this year’s presidential election. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Friday, 21
January 2022

France’s answer to Partygate: honeymooning in Ibiza

Macron's education minister changed the rules while on a holiday break

For an education minister to announce new rules for testing for pupils for Covid a few hours before the start of term may be an error. To do so from a luxury hotel in Ibiza while on honeymoon starts to look like carelessness.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the French education minister, has admitted his faux pas. The choice of the upmarket Spanish island resort for his short honeymoon break during a towering Omicron wave of Covid-19, was “symbolically” wrong, he said.

Only symbolically, though. He insisted that his convoluted choices for the multiple testing of pupils — already amended twice since his Ibiza Declaration on 2 January — were correct (at the time). ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Thursday, 6
January 2022

It’s Valérie Pécresse, not Zemmour, that Macron fears

Unlike the populists, the centre-Right candidate could assemble a coalition

The true battle-within-the-battle of the French presidential election is already raging. It is not a battle of Left v Right or even centre v far Right. It is a battle of centre vs centre, between two versions of the post-war French political consensus.

In the one corner is President Emmanuel Macron. His headline actions and comments in recent days — the European flag flying solo beneath the Arc de Triomphe; the declaration that he wanted to “emmerder” (piss off) the 8% of non-vaccinated French — were intended (at least in part) to widen the splits in the traditional centre Right.

In the other corner is the centre-Right presidential candidate, Valérie Pécresse. She is in a tight, three-way struggle with two far right candidates, Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour, for the second place in the first round on 10 April. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 13
December 2021

The Anglo-French fish war ends without victory

A breakthrough in Brussels this weekend

Some wars end with a parade. Others fizzle out and no-one claims victory.

The latter appears to be the outcome of the great Anglo-French Fish War of 2021 after a limited breakthrough in talks in Brussels on Saturday.

Some French fishermen, like isolated Japanese soldiers post-1945, are saying they will fight on. They warn of blockades of the Channel Ports in the next week or so. It remains to be seen if that threat will come to anything. My guess is “not very much”.

Britain and Jersey granted an extra 23 fishing licences to French boats for inshore English and Jersey waters on Saturday. Another seven permits are expected to be approved today. This will bring concessions to the French to 80 in the last week. Only 74 out of 377 licences requested by France are still being refused. In theory, talks on those missing licences will continue. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Friday, 10
December 2021

Emmanuel Macron kickstarts his re-election campaign

The president hopes that an optimistic message will serve as a counter to Zemmour's declinism

All I want for Christmas is a “powerful, sovereign” Europe,  a reformed Eurozone, stronger external EU borders, progress towards an EU defence policy and, er, a minimum European wage.

President Emmanuel Macron gave a two-hour press conference yesterday introducing his plans for France’s half-year term as president of the European Union council of ministers from January. It was neither truly a press conference — it began with a 60-minute speech — nor a realistic summary of what France can expect to achieve in a six month presidency which will be disrupted by the French presidential election in April. ...  Continue reading