‘I am monarch of all I survey’

Who’s the daddy? (pt 1)

Not the Prime Minister. He erroneously thought – following the possibly-rather-worse-than-expected news about the state of the Government’s finances – that it made sense to delay the cuts in the (national) wealth and (local) property taxes.

The Man Who Is Really In Charge thundered to the weak-kneed PM: ‘I have decided that we will not wait’. He made clear, beyond a peradventure, that there’d be tax cuts straightaway AND no more than a 3% budget deficit this year. ‘The rhythm of reforms must be maintained so as to maintain the confidence of the French and the investors … People want undertakings made to be respected.’

All references by Ministers to Le petit livre bleu [aka The Little Blue Book: being the statement of ‘promises’ set out in extenso by Candidate Macron and delivered in their millions to prospective punters in those long-lost far-off days when campaign poetry was really in vogue] are now recognised to be career-limiting.

Hence it will certainly not be the Ministry of Culture (but rather its craven lickspittle mouthpiece Le Monde) which may be so bold as to draw a deeply unhappy comparison between Candidate Macron Campaign Statement A, to wit ‘We will not take one euro from the budget of the Ministry of Culture’ and President Macron Governing Reality B, to wit €50 million taken out of the Ministry of Culture’s 2017 budget (or maybe it’s all PM Philippe’s fault?).

Who’s the daddy? (pt 2)

Not the Parliamentary ‘Opposition’, aka an assortment of random Deputies (Républicains, Unbowed France, erstwhile Socialists) who agree on little, and even if they could agree would still be mathematically insignificant – in the end they combined to muster 50 votes against.

The ‘Opposition’ erroneously thought they might be able to achieve some substantive amendments to the Government’s proposed broad outline of Employment Law changes. These related to Parliamentary exchanges about giving the Executive the right to legislate by Executive Ordinance, rather than that old-fashioned, tedious business of getting Parliament to debate and support all the minutiae … even with a real overall majority of Deputies.

A few cosmetic variations (38 out of 335 proposed amendments were adopted by the Government) … but the rest is exactly how the Government intended it to be carried through by Executive Fiat, after a week’s Parliamentary non-debate. Now all that remains is for there to be a further Parliamentary non-debate … and the Government will have its new law.

So far it looks as though employers’ federations are somewhat happier than trades unions. Maybe the latter feel a tad peeved at the remark by Mme Penicaud (Minister of Labour) that the only role of France’s weighty Code de Travail is ‘to annoy 95% of the bosses’.

Who’s the daddy? (pt 3)

Not General Pierre Le Jolis de Villiers de Saintignon, who also rejoices (but not for long) in the august title of Chief of Defence Staff.

He erroneously thought he could ‘comment’ on the President’s plans to cut an additional €850 million from the defence budget. And he didn’t even mention the still unpaid bonus of €130 million promised (over a twelvemonth ago) to the troops working on France’s internal security operation.

‘I am your chief’ said the President to the massed ranks of Senior Warriors on 13 July, minutes before dining with the Trumps. He went on: ‘I will respect the undertakings I have made to our fellow citizens and to our armed forces. And in this matter I have no need for pressure or commentary.’

This, after a Deputy had earlier asked the Chief of Staff in an in camera session what he’d do if he didn’t get the financial means he needed. The Much-Honoured-General saltily responded: ‘I won’t let myself be screwed like that.’ [‘screwed’ may just be an over-gentle translation].

The Chief of Staff had got a year’s extension to his contract but a fortnight ago – just like Arsenal players do when they reach 30. But this act of lèse-majesté would seem to have led to an early free transfer.

To confirm his earlier position, the President had ‘confided’ 3 days ago to Le Journal de Dimanche: ‘The Republic doesn’t work like that. If something puts the Chief of Staff in opposition to the President of the Republic, the Chief of Staff changes … I say what I do and I do what I say, it’s no more complicated than that.’

And so it was that on the Third Day (being this very day dearly beloved) the Chief (of Staff) did what an Old Soldier’s gotta do and fell on his ceremonial sword in front of The (Real) Chief.

Who’s the daddy? (pt 4)

Not the Ministers in the Philippe Government.

They erroneously thought that they were going to be able to have the usual number of special advisers as in the past … but they’ve been reduced to an historic 5th Republic low of 10 per Minister. [Historic note: then-Minister Macron had 25 in the Good Old Days]. And to add a bit of extra zest – and so reduce any Presidential/Prime Ministerial ‘misunderstandings’ – many of their respective advisers will in future be ‘shared’. Any idea who’ll have the bigger share?

He came. He saw. He surely conquered everyone with his unfailing charm, fixed smile and oh-so-elegant language. 

‘A moment of truth’ with Trump (President Macron had explained to Le Journal de Dimanche) when his ‘refusal to concede, even symbolically’, on his virile handshake, turned out to have been under-appreciated by the White House. Yet, some phone calls later, here was this stay-at-home President flying the Atlantic once again to be guest of honour at the 14th July march-past.

Not since 1989 – and Mitterand’s invitation to Bush to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution – has any U.S. President been over here on France’s national day. Yet here was an invite by President Macron to an isolated, beleaguered Trump to come over and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the USA’s (belated) entry into WW1. [This enabled Trump to be after-Putin but before-Netanyahu in the list of Those Whom You Would Most Like To Dine With.]

A ‘diplomatic gamble’, wrote Le Monde with President Macron acting as ‘mediator, taking advantage of the tensions of recent months between Moscow, Washington and Berlin’. While the win-win for Trump is that he hopes to have some of the magic of this ‘trailblazer’ (per D. Trump) President rub off on him.

So what did we get on 14 July? Apart, that is, from 63 planes, 29 helicopters, 241 horses and 3,720 soldiers?

More declarations of ‘friendship’ than an average bromance should have to deal with in such a short time. President Macron’s reference to ‘a dinner between friends … We have a strong personal relationship.’ Visits to the Invalides (complete with guard of honour and fanfare and President Macron acting as blue button), the tombs of Marshal Foch and Napoleon, lobster and caviar dinner at the Eiffel Tower (with 3 star chef Ducasse in attendance – Trump may have felt he was being under-valued, being more used to 5 star establishments … or generals)

And, to cap it all, some seriously elegant language from Trump:
‘Something could happen with respect to the Paris [climate] accords. Let’s see what happens, but we will talk about that over the coming period of time and if it happens that will be wonderful and if it doesn’t that’ll be OK too.’

Asked about his chum, Jim, who had decided never to go to Paris again because it was rife with Islamist terrorists, Trump replied ‘It’s going to be just fine because you have a great President. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. He’s a tough President. I really have the feeling that you are going to have a very peaceful and beautiful Paris. I’m coming back,’ he beamed. [Well that’s a great relief.]

And to cap it all, while in the Invalides, the inimitable riff to/on Mme Macron: ‘You’re in such good shape.’ To Pres. Macron ‘She’s in such good physical shape.’ To Mme Macron again: ‘Beautiful.’ She seemed to grab Mrs Trump’s arm and step backward. If only there had been a camera on Mme Macron’s face.

Post-script

1. I learn from the ever-useful Urban Dictionary that the ‘Who’s the daddy?’ question first appeared in the excellent (if old) Brit film ‘Scum’ in which the (now old) anti-hero Ray Winstone bets his all on his inevitable rise to Top Borstal Dog. He answers his own question by screaming ‘I am the … ‘

And recognising the sensibilities of some of my Gentle Readers a discreet veil will be drawn over his concluding words.

But, as in all the very best stories, there is no doubt as to ‘Who’s The Daddy?’

2. One of President Macron’s main promises is the earlier distribution of high-speed and effective Internet connections throughout this green and pleasant. Yes please. It’s sheer hell trying to pen a few words whilst at the End of the Earth (aka Finistere). For those hanging on my every word, there will be more. Some time. But it’s such a pain trying to use a local cafe’s intermittent wifi. Life’s hard. Enjoy your hols one and all. I will return.

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