Day 33 – A day early ‘cos there’s so much to say. A pleasant surprise, I trust … but with a sting in the tail.

Out on the streets

‘Jamais deux sans trois‘ is an oft-used phrase. It tends to be used negatively, as in ‘bad things come in threes’.

In this case, it was seeing all the (10 maybe?) Fillonistas at the Sunday morning market. Strangely, they had the place to themselves: further reinforcement of the idea that Fillon supporters are indeed determined to create the momentum for One Last Heave.

They were, once again, handing out Fillon’s self-same jumbo 8 page leaflet. Having been given one previously in the market-place, as well as having received a second copy through our letter-box but a few days ago, I declined yet another. But I wasn’t to be allowed to get away with this act of positive disinterest. In less than an hour, we had a further copy delivered chez nous. Excessive alcohol consumption, organisation and establishment for making drinks come to mind.

It’s all over now

A sober, almost sad, Hamon peered reflectively out from Le Parisien‘s front page (pondering what might have been?) saying to anyone listening ‘Macron’s not of the Left’.

His early January 6% poll rating had been magically transformed in 3 weeks, by his nomination as Socialist candidate, into the fool’s gold of 17%: Fillon was within reach. But that was merely the infamous dead cat bounce … and now Hamon languishes back around 10% drowning not waving. [That Was Then This Is Now Corner: it’s maybe worth mentioning that in the 1st round of the 2012 Election, Hollande was first with 28.6%.]

Le Parisien‘s editorial says ‘The candidate of the Epinay party risks going down, with a programme that’s too left wing for the reformers, but not left wing enough for the hard left. All in all, he’s caught in a vice-like nutcracker grip between Macron and Melenchon’ – the latter had said the Socialist Party was being nut-crackered … with only oil emerging. [Historical references abound in the French press. Epinay was where the Socialist Party’s 3rd Congress was held in 1971. This, after the Socialist candidate was eliminated from the 1969 Presidential Election with 5% of the vote. Mitterand became Party leader at Epinay intending to ‘ally’ with the Communists … but ultimately to replace them as the main Left Party. Epinay is seen as the moment when the modern Socialist Party was born; 2017’s Primary Election was maybe when it died.]

A Hamonista says ‘We’re caught between the hammer and the anvil, between the Macron vote utile and the Melenchon vote plaisir [pleasure/indulgence]. The voters will also make the candidate with the Socialist label pay for the years they’ve lived through.’

Yesterday, Families Minister Rossignol (one of the modest few Government Ministers campaigning for Hamon) said Melenchon’s success was that of a left which had ‘given up on the idea of running the country and is planning for opposition’. But she did admit that Melenchon ‘would win first prize in the Eloquence Exam.’

The last (?) throw of Mr Hamon’s dice is said to be tonight’s TV debate. But since he failed when there were only 5 candidates, how can he possibly hope to win through among 11? His team say he will be much sharper this time. But it’s surely far FAR too late.

How come everyone gets a majority in the Parliamentary Elections?

Although many Républicains have evidently given up on the chances of Fillon winning, they are still very focused on June’s Parliamentary Elections. They have ambitions of winning at least between 150-200 of the 577 seats, believing they will certainly be the largest Party, so allowing them the expectation that the PM will be taken from their ranks. However, they’re preparing themselves for a major row should Fillon be eliminated in Round 1. In such event, certain Républicains will support the idea of a ‘Republican Front’ (all against Le Pen). Yet most will say that if they clearly come out against Le Pen that would (as ever-punchy Wauquiez, boss of the Rhone Regional Council, put it) ‘be like shooting a bullet in the neck of Républicain Parliamentary candidates’ because of the need to face En Marche candidates, plus the FN using that in Parliamentary Election propaganda.

FN Vice-President, Aliot, said on France Inter that Le Pen will get a majority in the National Assembly ‘much more easily’ than the other candidates … ‘Look at François Mitterand. Everybody said Mitterand wouldn’t have a majority, but he won one’ in 1981. Le Pen has already said that ‘she would govern by enlarging her majority [ie inviting MPs from other parties to join with FN MPs] … the guiding principle [of the FN programme] is the total renegotiation of the European schema.’

Macron said that ‘the French will vote for [him] and will give [him] a majority in the National Assembly.’ He confirmed that if he didn’t have a majority he would necessarily govern by using Article 49.3 of the Constitution, ie passing legislation without a Parliamentary vote, unless the Government is overthrown by a vote of no confidence. And he also confirmed that any Socialist who wished to stand as an En Marche candidate would first have to leave the Socialist Party.

 

Another rock star

Le Journal de Dimanche (circulation c. 200,000) this week had a 4-page hymn of praise to Hard-Left Melenchon. The headlines: ‘The Melenchon break-through. [He] has left Hamon behind and claims he can soon catch Fillon … The Melenchon moment … His strategic transformation.’

An Ifop poll has 44% saying Melenchon best represents the ‘ideas and values of the left’ (31% say Hamon and 21% Macron). 49% hold him capable of reforming the country, and 46% say he has Presidential stature. 77% say he is honest. And only 38% say he worries them (NB 48% say Macron worries them. But maybe that’s only to do with the reality of the comparative chances of either man becoming President).

It’s a given that the former (comprehensible) ‘left/right’ split is being replaced. Le Pen wants to shape it as a ‘nationalist/globalist’ split. Melenchon characterises it as a split between people and oligarchy. Hamon’s campaign manager said ‘Melenchon’s objective is to kill every Party on the left – Socialists, Communists, even his own Parti de gauche. He wants to construct a Caesarist movement like Macron.’ Here’s an interesting piece on Caesarism from left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

In his JDD interview, Melenchon said he’s become a ‘reassuring figure. I think people want humanity. Today, society isn’t waiting for ‘sound and fury’ [In 2012, Melenchon said he was ‘The sound and the fury, the tumult and the crash’ (in French and English)] The country’s worn out. Le Pen represents a form of violent adventure for the country … But not me. I am a marked out pathway … With me there are steps, a timescale, a method. My Presidency would not be a leap into the dark as with Mme Le Pen.’

Amidst the generous coverage, including a long piece about Melenchon’s love for poetry (‘I love being an intellectual … I am the tribune-poet (sic)’), JDD has also  recycled a number of juicy quotes, which The New Melenchon would surely have edited:

  • ‘For the 3rd time in history, a German Government’s stubbornness is going to destroy Europe’ (Greek crisis, July 2015)
  • ‘Maul zu, Frau #Merkel! Frankreich ist frei’ (‘Shut your face Merkel, France is free’ – replying to Merkel criticising the pace of French reform, Dec 2014)
  • ‘Large companies must be controlled. They are the enemies of the country’ (reacting to golden goodbye for Peugeot boss, Nov 2013)
  • ‘The Europe that’s been built is one of social violence. We see this every time a worker posted to another EU country steals the bread from the worker of that country’ (July 2016)
  • ‘Did you see that sale con?’ (referring to a journalist at his Paris rally 2 weeks ago) [For earlier thoughts on French swearwords – in particular, use of con – see Day 70]

His EU views deserve highlighting – its classic Hard Left. In JDD, he distinguishes his own position from Le Pen’s, saying ‘Plan A is a re-negotiation to leave budgetary treaties and austerity behind. If that fails, Plan B is to go elsewhere with those who agree with us.’

Perhaps hardest-hitting is José Bové (activist, folk hero, fellow-Euro-MP and former Presidential candidate): ‘Melenchon doesn’t believe in Europe. He wants a France that that turns back within its own borders … Melenchon’s line is populist and isolationist. He is ever more nationalist.’

‘I remain an outsider’ (E Macron)

A major (and very punchy) interview by 4 Le Monde journalists (Why not? It took 2 FT journos + The Editor to interview D Trump) starts with Macron complaining that Hamon and Fillon have ‘lost their Republican points of reference’ by making him the main target of their attacks. Le Pen is his main opponent ‘with a political offer diametrically opposed to his own’. The debate is ‘between her and me … between patriots and nationalists.’

He describes current politics as divided in three between his own progressive centre, a conservative (plus more extreme) left and a hard, extremely conservative right getting ever closer to the extreme right. ‘Fillon has decided that the French right can [be] on the fringes of the Republic where you encourage the booing of the media, attacking justice, abusing the competitors, stating that we are in a post-truth world.’

Put to him that he was Hilary Clinton against Trump, he replied: ‘Absolutely not. I haven’t been part of the system for thirty years.’ Accepting that people from very diverse backgrounds had publicly joined him to vote for him, he totally rejected any idea that he owed them anything for their support, nor even that they would become his MPs.

Asked if he was the heir to the Hollande programme, he totally denied this, saying that he ‘does not claim to be a normal President [Hollande’s 2012 claim to distinguish himself from the razzmatazz, or bling bling, Sarkozy Presidency]. I count on being a President who presides, an involved President but never a President of the anecdote (sic), with decisions taken rapidly, with Presidential projects given priority and a Government which governs.’

Macron then firmly rejects the idea that he is outlining a ‘Caesarist President’ [Just what is this? An example of the Paris intelligentsia getting together to decide on The Word Of The Day? Twice in 36 hours!]: ‘Power’s already concentrated today in the Elysée, much more than one would believe.’

Will he choose a powerful Prime Minister? Macron responds that he ‘will choose a Prime Minister who will conduct the Government’s policies, as laid down by the Constitution. That person will not be a collaborator [Sarkozy’s word for Fillon when he was PM] nor anyone with a personal agenda.’

This campaign, said Le Monde, had been dominated by scandals and suspicion about politicians. They continued: ‘The French do not understand how, having been an investment banker, your patrimoine is about the same as Arthaud’s’ (Trotskyist Lutte Ouvrière candidate). Macron: ‘I have been in the private sector, I worked a lot, I earned money and I’m proud of that. I don’t like money, but I don’t hate it. The dangerous people are those that love it or hate it. I owe money for properties bought and building works. That was taken into account by my patrimoine declaration, rigorously reviewed by the tax/[Transparency] authorities who have confirmed my declarations … I don’t have to explain to you what I’ve done and how I’ve gone through the money earned in the private sector. I will fight to the end against the politics of suspicion and voyeurism.’

Le Monde continued: ‘Having learnt about your patrimoine, some have concluded that considering what you earned as investment banker and senior civil servant (€3.3 million pre-tax between 2009 and 2014) means you’ve spent about €1000 per day. Are you a man who spends €1000 a day?’ Macron vigorously rejected that: ‘Those saying that are both wrong and defamatory. When you earn a lot of money, you pay a lot of tax, and when you’re self-employed (as I was) a lot of social security payments’. He went on to reject this line of questioning.

Le Monde pressed again. ‘But the French want to know what kind of man you are, if you’re an extravagant man …’ Macron interrupted: ‘I’m not extravagant. I don’t spend €1000 per day. If I depended on money, I wouldn’t have cut my income by 10 or 15 times to become Secretary-General of the Elyséé in 2012. I wouldn’t have left the Elysée for nothing in 2014. I would have refused to become a Minister. I would not have left the Government and public service to lead a campaign.’

Le Monde asked about the donors to Macron’s campaign. ‘I’ve received nothing from any company, that’s forbidden. Gifts from individuals are limited to €7500: the law forbids my naming them, but requires me to pass the list of donors to the National Commission.’

You’ve said 2% of your donors gave more than €5000 which means around 600 people have given a third of your monies. Macron replies: ‘I am not dependent on anyone. I have borrowed €8 million at my own risk. I am therefore not beholden by these gifts to any of our 35,000 plus donors. I am not in politics to be insulted every day.’ [No idea what that last sentence is all about. Is he really such an ingenu that he doesn’t think being in politics is really about being insulted, several times a day?]

Macron may still want to give the impression he’s the outsider. However Le Parisien has no doubt about what’s at stake in tonight’s TV debate. Their front page – under a pic of a pensive Macron with hands together (in prayer?) – is: ‘Macron the No. 1 target’. While Le Figaro has gone with ‘The jour de gloire of the ‘little’ candidates’.

The Man Who …

… wrote much of Sarko’s hardest-line stuff, M. Guaino, has featured before in this blog. This really should be, as it were, The Last Time. He’s a Républicain MP who speaks publicly an awful (important word that) lot. He can always be counted on for vigorous language [BBC listeners/viewers may agree that Jacob Rees-Mogg MP plays a similar role in Blighty]. Guaino confirmed he wouldn’t vote for Fillon in Round 1 (though he will vote); while in the 2nd round he would not vote for Le Pen, Macron or Fillon.

He said: ‘For the first time in my life I will abstain. I don’t want to be complicit in what’s going to happen … This election is the most ridiculous and the most grotesque of the Fifth Republic.’ Spoken with all the gravitas and vigour of a man who had himself wanted to stand in this Presidential Election. He finally persuaded no less than 33 people to sign his nomination papers, thus falling but 467 signatures short.

Le Pen continues. But there’s problems in the air

In Bordeaux, on Sunday, Le Pen described the 1st round as ‘nothing more than the primary for the candidates of the system [Macron and Fillon]. In the 2nd round, the one who’s eliminated will call for a vote for the other’ [as written above, that’s almost certainly garbage as far as Fillon’s concerned]. Yet the near-certainty that Le Pen will be in the 2nd round is getting slightly sullied by judicial enquiries, in particular an email sent by FN Treasurer, Saint Just, to Le Pen in 2014. It’s leading investigating magistrates to believe there was possibly a ‘fraudulent’ system put in place by the FN to pay for its employees with Euro-Parliamentary monies.

This morning, following the St Petersburg Metro attack, Le Pen is back with her favourite predilection of choice: security and the fight against ‘Islamic terrorism’. Denouncing France’s current state of emergency as ‘cheap/tacky’, she called again for all radical mosques to be closed, France’s borders to be better supervised, foreigners who are ‘fichés S‘ [suspected at some time of possibly intending to act against the interests of the State] to be expelled … there may be anywhere between 5,000 – 10,000 people who are currently fichés S and many may currently not even be in France.

Goodies – they’re coming (y)our way

Goody, goody gum drops indeed.

No. Not a reference to a rather amusing trio from British TV pre-history [many more episodes available for those moved to tears by seeing these wonderful chaps again]. This is a scoop plucked from today’s Le Figaro. Fillon campaign director, Chriqui, is quoted as saying that ‘Goodies give a lot of pleasure’. [Get on with it. Ed.]

So, announces Chriqui, with 20 days to go, not only will there be lots of public meetings, media appearances, posters PLUS ANOTHER TEN MILLION COPIES OF THAT BLESSED EIGHT PAGE LEAFLET [no more please chez Hadley at No. 1] but ‘goodies’ too.

Yes. It’s to be ‘goodies’ time. Self-sticking badges. Leaflets to put on door handles. Apparently, with ‘goodies’, you can have a much ‘warmer discussion’. Gosh. We had stickers galore in the Seventies for our political campaigns. If only I’d known their extraordinary importance. Might have been in a position of serious power today instead of occasional scribbler.

Opinion polls

No change (-ish), beyond Macron’s Round 2 vote reverting to solidly over 60%.

We’ll meet again …

EXCEPT that – to compensate for this post being a day early – there’ll be a 4 day gap for battery re-charging before The Last Fortnight. See you on 8th April.

 

 

 

 

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