Day 73 – Two down … several still to go

Centrist Alliance 

‘Bayrou bets on Macron and chooses the Left again’ (conservative Figaro). ‘The Middle Empire. After weeks of dithering …’ (left Liberation). ‘AS A COUPLE is it really better?’ (apolitical Parisien/Aujourd’hui). And from the ever-incisive (but possibly over-cerebral-when-it-comes-to-banner-headlines centre-left) Le Monde: ‘Presidential Election: Macron bets on the centre by forming an alliance with Bayrou’ … which tells it all.

Bayrou had said he’d tell the waiting world his decision as to a possible fourth Presidential run 2 months before the Election. And so it came to pass that The Great No-Go Announcement was handed down at 16:45 on Day 75 (ie 2 months and 1 day before Round 1). Bayrou [buoyed by his consistent opinion polls showing nearly 6% support] offered an ‘alliance’ to Macron in the light of the ‘gravity of the situation … a situation of extreme risk’, provided Macron agreed to a serious Clean Up Politics programme.

And at 18:12 (significant time that?) Macron tweeted ‘Je l’accepte‘.

Le Monde says Macron’s decision to reinforce his Centrist candidature risks losing voters to the left. Ifop pollster boss Dabi describes the alliance as ‘Natural but not risk-free … [Bayrou] is always a red rag for the right … and part of Macron’s electors could be tempted to turn to Fillon.’ [In the 2012 Presidential Election, The Traitor Bayrou had said ‘Vote Hollande NOT Sarkozy’ – some will never forgive and they certainly haven’t forgotten.]

Hamon quickly characterised Macron as now plainly ‘a centre-right candidate’. Minutes later, Marion Le Pen (MP/niece) called Macron ‘A real man of the Left’.

In response to wagging tongues, Macron made it clear this very morning on BFMTV that ‘Bayrou will not be my Prime Minister. There is no ticket’. Yesterday the 2 met at what’s described by Le Parisien as a chic et bobo (ie bourgeois bohemian) restaurant attached to the Palais de Tokyo.

Bayrou has now pledged to work all out for Macron’s election. Long gone are the days when Bayrou railed against Macron for being ‘the author of Hollande’s economics policies for 4 years’ (Sept. 2016) or ‘I don’t recognise what Macron represents. His vision of society is close to what Sarkozy defended in 2007’ (Sept 2016) ‘Fillon’s and Macron’s economic programmes have many similarities’ (Dec 2016). Is it a wonder that people get cynical?

Macron’s voters were possibly ‘confused’ even before the Bayrou Alliance. Pollsters Ifop-Fiducial say Macron has over 40% of both Hollande’s and Bayrou’s 2012 voters + 17% of Sarkozy’s + 14% of Hard Left Mélenchon’s AND 28% of 2012’s undecideds. When asked if there are too many immigrants in France, half Macron’s supporters agree and half disagree. They’re also split down the middle on whether the unemployed could find work if they wanted to, and on the role of the state in the economy.

Macron has finally started his Campaign Policy Roll-out this very day. He will explain on TV tonight details of how he’ll cut €60 billion from public expenditure over 5 years and also cut 120,000 public service jobs AND inject €50 billion into France’s economy.

It’s striking that Macron has had major poll boosts in both daily rolling polls. He’s taken 2nd place ahead of an also-rising Fillon (with his highest ratings since FakeJobsGate began). Only a third of those polled (ie the latest cohort) knew that Bayrou had withdrawn; but, by Monday, in these rolling polls, all will know there’s but one Centrist left standing.

I must admit I thought Bayrou would stand. Still, I’m in quite good company (in French).

Hamon

Hamon’s supporters must envy Macron/Bayrou doing the business so quickly. Hamon took ages to sort out one recalcitrant Green. [Can he now do the same with Melenchon? Can he hell.] It was last night when Jadot (Green) announced that the Green Deal had been done. Ego put to one side. He’s withdrawn. Hamon’s relief may be marginally tempered by the previous statement from Francois de Rugy: he’s a sort-of-ecologist who was a candidate in the Socialist Primary, getting 3.8% of Socialist Primary voters … but he’s now changed his mind, refused to support the winner and decided to join the Macron-bandwagon instead.

While, in still better news for Hamon, one might assume all those snide comments (take a very large bow The Economist) about Hamon’s proposal to tax robots (because, sneered The Economist, robots don’t have votes) will now be quietly put to one side following The World’s Richest Man’s brilliant and thoroughly original suggestion.

Melenchon

Perhaps a few of you missed it live. So here’s a link allowing you to catch up at your own pace with the 330 (indeed, three hundred and thirty) minutes’ explanation of Melenchon’s economic programme. It’s there for ever so you can always get back to it.

Some economists question whether either of Melenchon’s main assumptions of (i) 2% growth from 2018 AND (ii) €68 billion to be found by stopping tax evasion and suppressing tax advantages are likely to be wholly realisable.

Last night on TV Melenchon proposed a fundamental (ie ‘democratic, social, ecological’) re-negotiation of the European Treaties, to be followed by a Frexit Referendum. He also offered to meet Hamon on Monday or Tuesday. ‘It isn’t me who’s closed the door. I’m open to discussions [about a single candidature]’ he said.

Juppé

Those missing The Grand Old Man, here’s (for probably the last time) his latest thoughts (in French). Just think how boring this campaign would have been had he won the Right’s Primary… and he’d drifted majestically to his nearly pre-determined Coronation.

Le Pen 

Under the eye-catching ‘Marine Le Pen has a better chance in France than you think’ the Financial Times printed a thoughtful piece by Sudhir Hazareesingh (Oxford academic and French author of ‘How the French Think’).

‘The FN’ he wrote ‘benefits from a neutered right, a flaky centre and a divided left.’ He concluded: ‘Until now the prevailing view has been that it is inconceivable that France could elect a National Front president. Yet we have heard that before, closer to home. If French political elites do not get their act together soon, a Poujadiste “Frexiter” and admirer of Mr Trump could well find herself in the Elysée Palace in May.’

Pollsters BVA commented that Le Pen was ‘not at all affected’ by the row with the European Parliament about her fraudulent expense claims. BVA said it ‘reinforces her position as a victim of a technocracy she is fighting against.’

Fillon

He’s been refreshing his health programme, with all semi-privatisation ideas – i.e. the State taking care of major illnesses and private insurance paying for ‘small care’ – now dropped. Instead there’s a bonanza of healthcare goodies: glasses and dentistry will no longer be, after his 5 year term, a financial burden to anyone. As for 500,000 to-be-lost public sector jobs, worry not … they’re only administrators, not health care professionals.

Fillon’s also stopped being a One Man Band. His team’s now heavyweight: Baroin (Sarkozyiste), Bertrand (non-aligned, he beat Le Pen in last year’s Regional Elections) and Pécresse (Juppéiste – but will she be dropped for Grammatical Errors?). All serious Prime Ministerial material … and, just as important, from The Next Generation.

CRIF

The annual dinner of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) was held this week. The CRIF refuses all contact with the FN so, logically, no Le Pen … but (for balance?) they added Melenchon to the List of Non-Invited Presidential Candidates.

Enjoy, as I did, a few seconds of charming LCI footage showing Président Hollande maybe having forgiven Macron for his treachery in going off to form his En Marche movement … leading to Hollande’s perhaps inevitable decision not to stand again. Rumours abound, (LCI tells us) that Hollande will publicly support Macron rather than Too-Socialist Hamon. Timing’s all: unsure if Macron wants more endorsements just now. In the meantime.

BVA opinion poll

Le Pen up 2.5 points in Round 1 to 27.5%.

Asked which subjects will most impact the voter’s intention to vote: future of social security (84%), law and order (83%), integrity of candidates (77%), terrorist threat 78%, immigration (73%), the migrant crisis (72%), police/citizens relationship (71%). More and more ‘Le Pen subjects’.

BVA finds the electors ‘more volatile than ever’: 40% saying they can change their mind.

Anther question is also significant. Those polled were asked whether candidates would make a very good/rather good/rather bad/very bad President. 40% replied Macron would make a good President. 33% said Hamon, Le Pen and Fillon would make a good President.

Le Pen has transformed herself into being a candidate like any other. That explains why I fear there could well still be a deeply unpleasant shock in early May.

 

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