Plus ça change …

… plus c’est la même chose.

It’s as though The Good Old Days – and These You Have ‘Loved’ – had never been away

  • Marine Le Pen is again Front National President. Here are two artificial Extreme Right smiles from Le Pen and her stand-in-for-the-stand-in: Briois appeared after Le Pen’s Holocaust-denying initial choice, Jalkh, fell foul of his earlier foul utterances
  • Fillon will again be helping police (and judges) with their enquiries, arising from the fictional employment charges; he’ll be there on 30 May; last time, he didn’t answer questions, protested his innocence, complained about the judges’ speeded-up timescale; now son/daughter/Very Rich Friend will also be answering questions
  • the Républicains have dropped Fillon’s idea of putting up VAT by 2%; instead, lowering taxes by 10% has a much more old-fashioned appeal
  • Dupont-Aignan (the Hard Right Presidential candidate who rushed to claim a role as Le Pen’s putative Premier) announced ‘no deal’ after all between his party and the Front National: ‘the FN cannot have the monopoly of opposition’
  • the Socialists (where 60% of the candidates will be new) have dropped Hamon’s minimum universal income, that robot tax and the end of nuclear power, but they oppose any proposed changes to the Labour Law by executive order
  • during a critical moment in Macron’s campaign, Bayrou (the MoDem centrist) announced he wouldn’t stand but would support Macron, so re-invigorating his possibly faltering progress. There was said to have been an agreement on seats in the Parliamentary Elections. Fast forward to last week. A bit of old-fashioned argy-bargy. When President Macron’s re-baptised party Le République en Marche (LREM) announced its 428 candidates for Parliament, only 38 were from Bayrou’s MoDem. But, shouted Bayrou, my MoDem was supposed to have many more candidates, blaming LREM ‘apparatchiks without any political experience’. And now, following a Macron/Bayrou meeting (God Bless The Old Ways of Sorting Difficulties) MoDem will actually end up fighting 120 seats
  • in Round 1 of the Presidential, Mélenchon finished top in 67 constituencies; he now wants to bury the Socialist Party, replace Communist MPs with his own and, finally, force President Macron into cohabitation with his party.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe

President Macron chose the man most newspapers had tipped as his PM – assuming he wanted to bring in someone from the right … and, importantly, chose someone without overtly dangerous Presidential ambitions (Stand Up M. Xavier Bertrand).

‘Eleven seconds to split the Right’ headlined Le Monde [those 11 seconds being the time it took to make the announcement of Philippe’s Premiership … even if the presentation of that sentence had itself been pushed back several hours].

The Man Chosen To Be P.M. is almost a mirror image of President Macron. The son of French teachers, Philippe’s grandfather and great-grandfather were both dockers (the latter possibly the first Communist Party member in Le Havre). He studied at Sciences Po University, Paris (Almost Like Macron, who did his Masters there). Then Philippe (Just Like Macron) attended the ultra-prestigious Ecole nationale d’administration (THE institution for all of France’s senior public officials, though less than 1% go into politics … its graduates being known as énarques). [NB the man who made the above 11 second announcement, Kohler (Secretary-General of the Elysée), is an énarque too.]

Philippe was a great admirer (Just Like Macron) of the sort-of-Socialist-but-really-liberal Rocard … even becoming a card-carrying member of the Socialist Party for 2 years in his 20’s (Almost Like Macron – who was a Socialist Party member for 3 years in his 30’s).

Philippe (definitely part of the extremely-centre-just-a-little-bit-right) was recently Juppé’s spokeperson during the Républicain Party’s primary, but quit Fillon’s team during the endless scandals and wrote a column for left-wing Libération. 

(Predictable) criticism of Philippe from Right, Extreme Right and Hard Left

The Républicain Party screamed loudly against President Macron’s blow. The leader of their Parliamentary campaign, Baroin [The Man Who Would Have Wished To Have Been, in turn, Sarkozy’s/Fillon’s/Macron’s Prime Minister] described Philippe’s nomination as ‘not restructuring politics, but dynamiting it’. With the Républicain’s boss describing the move as ‘unhealthy for democracy’. They are really hurting. And nice to see that M. Juppé gets to be able to think he finally contributed something positive.

The Front National condemned the ‘The holy alliance between the old Right and Left … the redeployment of several former celebrities from the Left and Right of political life’

Mélenchon also made clear his dislike of Philippe’s nomination, saying it was an annexation of the Right. Summoning up his oratory, he criticised a ‘dangerous tandem which will only function through caesarism [strongman cult of personality] and an ever-larger Presidential Monarchy … cohabitation [with La France insoumise] is necessary … for the good of our democracy’. He concludes: ‘It’s a Government of the Right’.

Scandalous behaviour?

Prime Minister Philippe embarked from his Le Havre haven with strange baggage.

Following the Cahuzac scandal [Socialist Budget Minister who’d undeclared an overseas bank account, with loadsa money hidden] the Hollande administration passed laws on transparency in public life. These established an Authority on Transparency in Public Life (HATVP) detailing requirements on the publication of financial information about what c. 15,000 people in public life owned and owed.

The-then Mayor and MP for Le Havre, M. Philippe, was one of but 23 witty folk (out of a grand total of 1,048 Senators and MPs) who felt that the HATVP’s interest in the Rights of All Men (and, possibly, Women too) to be discreet about their financial affairs was An Interfering Socialist Step Too Far.

Médiapart revealed that Philippe wrote his own HATVP declaration form by stating he’d:

  • ‘no idea’ about the value of his Paris apartment
  • ‘no idea’ about the value of his share of a Seine-Maritime flat, and
  • ‘no idea’ about the value of his Indre-et-Loire property.

Further, he

  • declined to state his income for the 5 preceding years or as Areva’s Director of Public Affairs, and (surely wittiest of all)
  • stated (in response to questions about his activities as a lawyer): ‘I’m not sure I understand the question. Do you want to know the hourly rate I charge? My average monthly pay? Annual?’

These witticisms earned him a formal reprimand from the HATVP for his ‘inexact’ declaration. I feel sure it’ll all get sorted for its mid-July publication by the HATVP.

Ministering to Left and to Right … and never forgetting The Centre

The Ministers of this first Macron Government should have been announced on 16 May. But, not far from the duly appointed hour, we learnt that everything was being delayed 24 hours, so as to ‘carry out due diligence’ and, presumably, attempt to avoid too many hitherto undeclared taxes/unrevealed peccadilloes. Here’s hoping, for the President’s sake, that the HATVP’s express vetting since Sunday has uncovered any rotten apples.

When the names were declared by a clearly nervous (hands-trembling ‘n all) M. Kohler at 15:00 sharp this afternoon, there were several surprises, amidst the obvious choices.

3 Men (yes indeed) are First Among Semi- Equals:

  • Interior – Collomb (Socialist Mayor of Lyon since 2001, never an MP)
  • Ecological Transition (and Industry) – Hulot (Green/journalist/TV presenter, never an MP – and, theoretically with a very important role, because Macron was always accused of downplaying ecological issues during his campaign)
  • Justice – Bayrou (centre-right MoDem/MP 16 years/Minister)

22 Ministers in total (7 more than candidate Macron promised) – 11 men and 11 women. Average age 54 – youngest 33, oldest 69

  • ‘Civil society’ (ie never before Ministers/elected) has produced 11 of the 22 names who’ve been nominated
  • Centrist MoDem has 2 Ministries apart from Bayrou – Minister of Defence (the Ministry’s got its 60’s title back, Ministry of the Armies) and European Affairs
  • Républicains have 2 Ministries, plus the PM: Economy and Public Accounts. And all those 3 Républicains are, as from today, ex-members of their Party
  • Le Drian (Socialist ex-Defence Minister) becomes Foreign Minister … but re-named ‘Europe and Foreign Affairs’ … he’s one of 4 ex-Socialist Ministers, plus 2 Ministers from the even-lefter Radical Left Party; Ferrand being in charge of a new ‘Ministry of Territorial Cohesion’ (and housing/towns) which, vitally, should lead to an attempt to reduce the important inequities between different parts of the country
  • Laura Flessel (fencer – 5 Olympic medals, 2 Gold) is Minister of Sport; Muriel Pénicaud (former H.R. boss of Dassault and Danone) becomes Labour Minister, with one of the heaviest tasks

Overall, the Right has Finance, the Left and Centre have the Rest.

First Ministers’ Meeting 18 May

They should be off and running with a Law on improving the morality of public life:

  • a ban on MPs/Senators employing family members or being consultants
  • not more than 3 consecutive terms of office for MPs/Senators
  • all monies paid, including expenses, being taxable

Parliamentary Elections

A Socialist Law from 2014 finally takes effect this June: MPs and Senators can no longer double up as Mayor/Deputy Mayor/Regional boss.

Several MPs have decided to stick to their local mandate – especially the Socialists – and given up being MPs. Le Monde calculates that over a third of MPs have decided to spend more time in their Town Halls.

What does France look like now, post-Presidential Election?

Some good maps on this BBC site showing the worrying advances made by the Front National.


The more hawk-eyed amongst you may have spotted that this blog has, like Shakespeare’s Bottom, been ‘translated’. (And it’s not merely that bit of French in the title.) Previous scribbling about the ‘2017 Presidential Election’ has been transformed into something with much more non-time-specific ambitions.

So. Thanks to those who suggested I might pass my time writing about the BrElection or the BrExit. But I’ll stick with what’s closer.

One other ‘house-keeping’ matter before the serious stuff . I thought I’d fathomed most of the particularities of the way in which different people receive my posts. But, last week, I learnt that those who glance at my pearls (of semi-wisdom) on their computer, or other medium, by just reading the text of their email are seriously short-changing themselves. An exchange with Maggie (who only ever reads my blatherings in the email she gets sent as a ‘follower’) revealed that all my patiently worked (and exceptionally contrived) YouTube clips ONLY actually appear in the original website, with none of them making it into the email. No longer are there links which some happily ignore: they are now frozen YouTube images seductively inviting further examination.

Hence, last week, such undeniable gems as references to (variously) St Francis of Assisi, Macron’s Long Walk and ‘Tomorrow belongs to me’ will, to some extent (alas) have fallen on stony(ish) ground: those YouTube clips being ’embedded’ on the website alone.

Past attempts at humour – that may sometimes have seemed even lamer or convoluted than usual [can that really be so? Ed] – may therefore be explained (away?) by this possibly annoying little Blogger’s Phenomenon.


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