A month is an eternity in politics

Vive la différence. She’s in office (fingertip-clingingly) but scarcely in power

A month is about the time it took Theresa May to forfeit every vestige of Prime Ministerial credibility. She published her ‘bold social care policy’ [a description probably attributable to Conservative Campaign Headquarters] less than 100 hours later had shredded the ‘dementia’ tax as electoral suicide.

Thus was all-conquering Boudicca transformed by a combination of her robotic hand and ‘events’ into a person whose raison d’être is now little more than survival from day to day … before she can broaden her cv and get to enjoy quality time with her dustbins.

He’s definitely in office, unquestionably in power, but ‘events’ complicate life 

Here in France, it only took some 10 days for the hitherto all-conquering President Macron and his triumphant Party, La République en Marche! (LREM) (variously the Republic Onwards/Onward/Forward – I always forget that cheeky exclamation mark) to find that ‘events’ can disrupt even the best-organised administrations. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Those Round 2 Elections all turned out a bit differently

Following Round 1 of the Legislative Elections, the new National Assembly was not exactly what had been expected by all right-thinking pollsters.

I had dutifully posted the several forecasts of an increased LREM/Democratic Movement (MoDem) tally of Députés. Following Round 1 of the Parliamentary Elections, know-it-alls cast aside their original estimate of 350 Députés in the National Assembly. Looking at the dispiritedness of the other Parties, forecasts of 400 abounded, and thence to the heady heights of 450+, leaving barely 100 of the 577 Députés for All The Rest.

BUT then, on the day of Round 2, the nation paused. It evidently reflected hard. And that amazing alchemy (happenstance?) that emerges from any electoral system that hasn’t got some inbuilt proportionality seemingly worked its magic once again. A desire to ensure plurality in the Assembly perhaps, combined with a fair bit of differential abstention, clearly affected the final week’s electoral predictions. [The abstainers totalled 57%, while a further 9.9% spoilt their ballot papers, presumably objecting to the thin gruel of choice on offer in their own constituency.]

This is the new National Assembly:

  • The worst-ever performance by the Right under the 5th Republic (ie 70 years) got them 137 seats – though the Républicains almost immediately lost some 20 of their Députés to a separate ‘Constructive Républicains’ group, with 20 centre-rightists. So the ‘opposition’ Right is nearly 100, with the Macron-supporting Right at 40.
  • A Socialist Party all-time-low record: with their allies they won 45 of the 284 seats held in the previous Parliament. The Party’s Last Rites have been pronounced: the Socialist ship will surely sail no more under that old flag
  • 3 Parties forecast to get but a handful of seats did all right(ish) on the night, which may help legitimise this National Assembly as an institution where all strands of thinking are represented: France Insoumise 17; Communists 10; Front National 8. Mélenchon and Le Pen have both been elected to the National Assembly for the first time: their loud voices may well be heard all too clearly.
  • As for LREM, in the end it ‘only’ won 308 seats which, with its MoDem partner party’s 42, gives them 350 of the 577 Députés.

For those wanting to drill down, here’s the Ministry of the Interior‘s official description of the different political forces divided by nuance: eg 5 ‘nationalists’ (including 3 Corsican ‘independentists’ – unlike Sinn Fein in the UK Parliament they’ll take their seats), 1 ‘extreme right’ (only a true connoisseur of the Ultra-Right will be able to distinguish this person from the Front National) and 0 ‘extreme left’ (Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise may be sufficiently ‘extreme’ for some).

What happened to the Députés from the previous Assembly?

Of those 577 Députes who sat in the 2012-2017 Assembly:

  • 223 didn’t stand as candidates this time
  • 125 lost in Round 1
  • 81 lost in Round 2, and
  • 148 were re-elected

The 2017-2022 Assembly therefore has 429 new Députés, a 5th Republic record.

The Assembly is 38.6% female (up from 27%) and has an average age of 49 (down from the previous 55).

Philippe Government 2

‘In conformity with the republican tradition, the day after Parliamentary Elections’ Prime Minister Philippe submitted to the President his own, and his Government’s, resignation. As the President’s spokesperson said, a technical re-shuffle was expected. However, then wheels appeared to detach themselves from the wagon. Some of the hyper-controlled, choreographed mise-en-scène that is a defining mark of the Macron Presidency seemed to have slipped somewhat out of control.

First, the President himself intervened on Monday (the day following the Elections). He decided that re-elected Minister for Territorial Cohesion, Ferrand – about whom still swirl suspicions and question marks (as well as a police enquiry) [here’s a résumé] – would no longer be a Minister, but would lead the ranks of LREM newbies.

Next day, Defence Minister Goulard decided to withdraw from the Government. She’s one of several centrist MoDem Députés who are bang in the sights of those enquiring into fictional employment of some 15 Euro-Parliamentary-Assistants.

Bayrou (MoDem Party leader) said Goulard had made a ‘personal’ decision. But, within a few hours, the ‘personal’ became all too ‘political’. Bayrou himself [whose rallying to Macron’s Presidential campaign had been extremely well-timed], the Minister of Justice, as well as the MoDem European Affairs Minister de Sarnez, had both resigned from the Government as well. To spend more time with their lawyers maybe?

It’s the stuff of classic tragedy. Bayrou had been on the fringe of national politics for 20 years, since leaving the Juppé Government in 1997. He’d tried to return as a national figure three times, Presidential candidate in 2002, 2007 and 2012. He thought he was The Centrist That France Yearned For. Alas poor Bayrou: too old, too old-school and too early.

Finally, his (almost) dream achieved. N° 3 in  a Centrist Government. His legislation on ‘morality in public life’ going to become law. And in a month Bayrou had blown it all. Off he went with lots of bad-mouth briefing against him. Back to Pau where he’ll continue as Mayor … even though the law says he should have quit that post days ago having been appointed Minister over a month back. There’s morality and morality.

So the ‘technical re-shuffle’ had suddenly had become the loss of a quarter of President Macron’s Ministers in three days. And all needless to say still ‘presumed innocent’.

Philippe Government 2

This time, there are 30 members in the Government (up 7 from Philippe Government 1), with male-female parity, 17 from ‘civil society’ and a continuing left/centre/right balance amongst the politicos.

More technocratic than Philippe 1, Le Monde called it a ‘Government of experts’. Senior constitutional lawyer, Belloubet, at Justice, ex-Socialist Minister Parly, who’s worked several years in Air France/SNCF at Defence and Loiseau (only the 2nd female boss of the National Administration School, the paragon of Enarchie) at European Affairs.

Quotations

A spirited piece on ‘The Quotation as Cliché’ (by the always-readable Robert Harris) has restrained me (somewhat) from further extending the hackneyed shelf life of a couple of ‘quotes’. Sadly, I have learnt that my two favourite clichés employed in this post each have a closer relation to fiction than either Prime Ministerial Harold (Wilson/Macmillan).

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