Day 63 – Is this (neo-) regicide I see before me?

Julius Caesar/Macbeth (Act 1 Sc 3)

The heavens this morning had to be telling us something.

First, a couple of marginally relevant bits of Bard (to prove it’s not cod-Latin alone littering these posts):

  • never till now, Did I go through a tempest dropping fire. Either there is a civil strife in heaven, Or else the world, too saucy with the gods, Incenses them to send destruction
  • So foul and fair a day I have not seen
Today started as a rough old day, meteorologically-speaking. Gale-force winds. Really heavy rain. Foul grey skies. Not exactly the right conditions for a political rally and even less for (as Le Monde’s front page put it) ‘Fillon bets on the street to save his candidature’.
Last week Fillon – referring to FN demonstrators at Macron’s meetings and Nantes anti-Le Pen demonstrators – hyperbolically accused the Government (in French) of allowing ‘the development in the country of a climate of quasi-civil-war’ to disrupt the campaign. This morning, on the Sunday streets of Our Quiet Town, virtually zero Electoral Action let alone anything more serious. The sum total of today’s midday militants? 2 Macronistas – with the same leaflet as last week. At least the Fillonistas had an excuse to be elsewhere.
So this afternoon, pursuing action Out On the Streets, I ignored Paris Mayor Hidalgo’s advice and joined the Grande Rassemblement Populaire (Large Popular Gathering)
 
streaming Trocaderowards. The weather had stopped being as foul as it had been earlier. There was little to make you believe we were in a quasi-civil-war-state. It seemed that this exclusively white, very largely middle-aged (to elderly), tricolore-flag-carrying crowd was likely to be able to enjoy a dry afternoon (tricolores only – slogans had been banned by the organisers: anti-judge speeches are so day-before-yesterday ).
I arrived in time to hear one of the last of Fillon’s profoundly-depleted campaign team, Senator Retailleau. [Libération claims that a grand total of 306 folk had abandoned Fillon’s campaign as at 20:00 today. Most importantly, the resignation of Stefanini (the Svengali figure who brilliantly organised Fillon’s Primary campaign victory) took effect this evening.] Anyway, Retailleau thrilled the crowd by telling us we were 200,000 strong. There were certainly many there, but this piece of Seriously Fake News should get corrected – police sources [infinitely better pix than mine can be found here on BFM TV‘s site] say there were c. 40,000. Will we ever know?
For those interested, this meeting was heavily supported (in all senses of the word) by an organisation called Sens Commun (Common Sense), the Provisional and Militant Political Wing of La Manif pour Tous (the anti-gay marriage movement who are big Fillonistes).
Lots of rather elderly folk obviously enjoyed the opportunity to spend the afternoon
  • chanting ‘on va gagner’ (trad. footie anthem: ‘we will win’) and ‘Fillon Président
  • whistling*, hooting* and jeering* vigorously every time Macron was mentioned (often) or Socialism (far less) or Hollande (rarely).
Retailleau is the sweet-tongued man who, at yesterday’s public Fillon meeting, said ‘What François has lived through for 5 weeks is a lynching, a stoning by the media (sic). Silent France which refuses these little manoeuvres will be at the place du Trocadero’. He also got the audience to jeer the press. Well, ‘the people’ certainly weren’t silent at Trocadero.
I should have known that ‘He … sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust’. I managed to take this before a serious downpour; regrettably, not the whole of the Eiffel Tower as a centrepiece, but you will (as it were) get the picture.
Fillon did another reprise of his ‘I’m a victim … I will fight on … Don’t give up on me … I have made mistakes [this greeted with loud disagreement]… They think I’m alone: Are we alone?… The leaders of the Républicains should examine their consciences…’ and at that juncture your intrepid reporter, being umbrella-less, made his excuses and left. No sign of Ultra-Right loonies (though it seems some journalists were set upon).
Fillon finished his day with a France 2 interview on the 20:00 news. Apart from repeating 6 (?) times the claim that 200,000 people were there [obviously a Fact now], he said: ‘No-one can prevent me being the candidate … No-one has the power … It’s my decision … There has been a hold-up democratique.” He rejected the accusation that his measured tones today meant the ‘Trumpisation‘ of his campaign had stopped: he explained that because he’d been so violently attacked he’d used strong language last Wednesday.
But he did twice say he was not a jusqu’au-bout’iste: a wonderful expression usually employed for Loony Left extremists who continue to fight to the very end regardless whether there is any point. Fillon also said he would talk to his political friends.
In other news
  • Fillon’s country chateau was searched on Friday by the police – apparently to help value the property for wealth tax purposes and verify his claims.
  • Tomorrow at 18:00 there is a meeting of the Républicains’ political committee: to discuss what to do. They’re worried that if Fillon is given the heave-ho their more right-wing voters may disappear Le Penwards. But tomorrow is clearly important.
  • Perhaps more important: Juppé’s called a press conference for 10:30 tomorrow.
  • Mme Fillon gave a not-wholly-convincing interview (speaking for the 1st time since Fake JobsGate broke) to the Journal de Dimanche (in French): she asserted she did do proper work both as a Parliamentary assistant (she has documents to prove the 2012-13 work but little for the pre-2007 work … so long ago) and for the millionaire publisher; ‘I said to François to go jusqu’au bout‘ (ie all the way); ‘I didn’t consider I was doing politics. I worked for my husband and the people of Sarthe’.
  • JDD also revealed details of the 19 statements to the investigating magistrates in the ‘Clarke Affair’ (Clarke being Penelope’s maiden name and everything official being in a woman’s maiden name over here). Odd that. It’s usually Le Monde‘s privilege to receive those leaks. These 19 statements (only one side of the case) mostly sound like rather bad news for those under suspicion.
  • 28% of the French, and only 53% of Républicains, want Fillon to remain a candidate.
  • Le Monde claims that Ph de Villiers, former junior Culture minister under Chirac and 2007 Presidential candidate winning 2.2% of the 1st round vote may come out for … Le Pen. Small earthquake, no-one hurt.
The future. Is there one?
The Financial Times (paywall) wrote that a consultancy, MacroGeo had produced a report entitled “Europe in the Brexit and Trump Era: Disintegration and Regrouping”. It claims that the current EU will probably fall apart, and it made no difference whether Macron and even German Socialist Schulz are both elected this year. “By the 2021-22 electoral cycle, the EU might be entering the last five years of its ‘real’ existence.” Regardless of Brexit, long-term geopolitical trends, such as migration, failing states, terrorism, climate change and Russian revisionism are causing the EU to atrophy.
The Economist’s editorial (paywall) (entitled online ‘The vote that could wreck the European Union’) concluded: ‘With just over two months to go, it seems Ms Le Pen is unlikely to clinch the presidency. Polls show her winning the first round but losing the run-off. But in this extraordinary election, anything could happen. France has shaken the world before. It could do so again.’
Maybe one day we’ll actually get to have a campaign?
Maybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS * There is surely an interesting small monograph to be written on the multiple ways in which different nationalities express displeasure when in a crowd. The Brit ‘boo’ doesn’t work over here.

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