Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Last Sunday actually started rather well for President Macron. He learnt from Le Journal de Dimanche that following his Precipitate Popularity Plunge (down 10 points in July, down 14 points more in August) Ifop said better times had come back. Up 5 points this month giving him a ‘satisfaction’ rating of 45%. This support mostly came from the right and centre, especially those aged 65+ and senior managers. His firmness in the face of the Labour Law protests was cited as a reason for satisfaction.
Is this any more than a dead cat bounce? Depends if Mélenchon’s Million Men March (see below) materialises. In any case the rest of Sunday was a bit bloody.
First there were the predictably bad Senate Elections. Although they were, in truth, almost a bit worse than bad. Half the Senate was being elected by a group of Councillors who had themselves been elected in 2014/2015, back in the day when the Right had been doing rather well (and certainly dreamed of adding the Elysée Palace to their other trophies). The President’s Party (La République en Marche) ended up with 25 Senators … which was actually 4 less than they had started the day with.
The Senate Elections turned out to be The Return of Old World. Many Républicains and, yes, even some Socialists, were elected Senator. It may well be the case that the President cannot now accumulate three-fifths of the vote in the National Assembly/Senate, sitting in joint session, to push through constitutional changes (eg limiting the number of terms for Deputies/Senators) without recourse to a national referendum. Though other constitutional reforms eg reducing the overall number of Députés/Senators (supported, said Ifop back in April, by 93%) can be effected by normal legislative means. Senators tend generally to vote on less than strict party lines, many (regardless where they are on the political spectrum) will not be tempted to offer up easy wins to the President.
At least, with those Senate Elections over, there won’t be any more Elections whatsoever until the Euro-Elections of 2019.
The other piece of unwelcome Sunday news came with the German Elections. Thus did German voters put paid to Macron’s hopes of persuading Merkel to get going quick with the Franco-German double-handed revival of ‘Europe’. He was even led to play down his grand Eurozone budget plans in today’s 2 hour speech on Europe: The Future
On 23 September, Lefties galore joined hard left Mélenchon’s France Unbowed march against the Labour Law. Hamon (former Socialist Presidential candidate now trying to create his 1st July Movement aka 1717), Greens, Trots of all varieties, anti-globalisation Attac, they all turned out.
[President Macron earlier went LIVE ON BFM TV (a Trump Tribute? very non-French) to demonstrate his determination to proceed with the Labour Law. Friday HE signed.
Saturday HE published the new Laws in the Official Journal. Sunday THEY marched.]
The numbers who marched were between 30,000 (the police) and 150-170,000 (France Unbowed). ‘The battle hasn’t finished’ said Mélenchon ‘it’s beginning’. And, he promised, we’ll take over the Champs-Elysées in mid-October and march behind the trades unions so as to produce a million people on the streets.
Word of the day (as ever) was idler/loafer/layabout. How Macron must wish he’d never used it. The explanation from Elysée spin doctors, that it had been a reference to previous French Governments who didn’t have the nous to carry out what needed to be done, sounds more lame each time it’s wheeled out.
Then Mélenchon, in his self-anointed role of Leader of the Oppositions – in another burst of outrage(ous) oratory – soared closer to the sun than usual. He addressed President Macron’s remarks on the role of demonstrators on the streets, as compared to voters who supported a political programme (‘democracy is not the street’). Mélenchon said the President ‘should look at French history’.
‘It’s the streets’, said Mélenchon ‘which brought down the kings, it’s the streets which brought down the Nazis … it’s the streets which protected the Republic in 1962 against the treacherous generals [Historical note: it was 1961] … it’s the streets which won the 4th week of paid holiday in 1968 … it’s the streets which brought down the Juppé plan [1995 strikes against proposed changes to social security/pensions] … it’s always the street which defends the aspirations of the French when they cannot otherwise be heard.’ This anaphora – and here’s an earlier example – had many finding it deeply
distasteful that poor old Juppé had been characterised (and the current Government too) along with the Nazis as The Enemy. [Another example of Godwin’s Law?] Mélenchon was also seen as being more than a bit glib claiming that French people on the streets had defeated the Nazis. Some pointed out that months before the Liberation of Paris, the same streets had hailed Pétain and his puppet Government. And maybe the Normandy landings and the Red Army played their anti-Nazi part?
CGT Day of Action N° 2
The police announced 132,000 demonstrators. Even the CGT only claimed ‘several hundred thousand demonstrators’. Contrast CGT Day of Action N° 1 for which the CGT upped its General Secretary’s 400,000 and went banco on a claim of half a million. Whatever the ‘truth’ the turn-out was significantly down from Day of Action N° 1.
The Odd Couple
The Soul Siblings had run the Front National for SIX long years. She President, He Vice-President. He the 35-year-old graduate of all-powerful ENA (National Administration School for The Great and the Sometimes-Not-So-Good) who crazily wanted France to quit the Euro but understood that to really break through the Front National had to be more than just an old-fashioned anti-semitic, anti-immigration party (though maybe the ‘Alternative for Germany’ Party gives the lie to that idea?). She the 49-year-old lawyer who blew any chance of it away in a 2 hour outburst of unrestrained, often incoherent, vituperation during the Presidential Debate. And then it fell apart. Florian Philippot (a man with too many ambitions for a Svengali) had finally gone too far for Marine Le Pen.
The local equivalent of the camel’s back-breaking straw is the drop of water which makes the vase overflow. Here there was wine too. Earlier demonstrations of Philippot’s vaulting ambition had been forgiven. But this was, perhaps, the one drop too many. He ate couscous AND he boasted about it online. That this should have been done in Strasbourg, the epicentre of choucroute (dressed sauerkraut) consumption, added gastric insult to the evident injury. It left a seriously bad taste in many Front National mouths. And so it came to pass that #couscousgate was born.
Following Philippot’s enforced FN departure (he was certainly pushed; no jumping was involved) other luminaries who represent what may laughably be called the ‘social-ist’ side of what made the FN a ‘nationalist socialist’ Party, have equally (been) moved on from the FN. These ‘social-ists’ are now working out whether to strengthen their so-called ‘Patriots’ movement into something more like a Party.
The FN will hold its Congress next March when, wrote Le Pen to all FN members, there will be a full debate on ‘organisation, ideas, strategy, alliances’. No mention of that pesky Party name so redolent of hatred? And when pressed by journalists about Philippot, she described his departure as a ‘non-event’ and him as ‘the past’.
Someone who hopes to benefit from this Front National churning is hard-right prospective leader of conservative Les Républicains, Wauquiez. Now is the time for all those traditionally conservative voters – temporarily tempted by Le Pen – to be brought back to the Républicains. All that’s needed is some hard-line right-wing dog-whistle discourse. And Wauquiez’s discourse will show he’s the man for that.
What Philippot Did Next
The first thing Philippot did was to leave behind those Euro-MPs known as the ‘Europe of Nations and Freedom Group’. They’re largely French Front National MEPs, plus a sprinkling of Italian Northern League and Dutch Freedom Party fellow-travellers.
Next, he (and Mme Montel, another like-minded ex-FN ‘Patriot’) could be off to join the ‘Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group’ [do these risible names sound better in other languages?] comprising 22 UKIP MEPs and 17 from Italy’s Five Star Movement … and co-presided over by our very own inestimable Mr N. Farage. So Mr Frexit could well be sat alongside Mr Brexit.
This week’s grogne
Regular readers of this blog will know that an easy way of describing ‘mounting discontent’ (which usually manifests itself on the streets) is la grogne monte.
This week’s grognards (ie grumblers who grogne) include:
- members of the CRS, more usually reputed for their lively riot control skills. This week a couple of thousand of them (of the 13,000 altogether) went awol. They’d each gone to see their doctor
- 250 farmers who blocked the Champs Elysées in preparatory protest against possible unilateral action by the French Government to ban glyphosate weedkillers
- lorry-drivers who blocked several motorways this week as part of their anti-Labour Law protests … more meetings with Ministers are planned
- Today saw the outline of 2018’s Finance legislation. So in advance of the tough times to be announced, the French Government announced its €57bn investment programme over the term of this 5 year Parliament. €20bn for environmentally-related improvements, €15bn for training, €13bn for investments in future technology and €9bn for Government’s digital revolution, especially in healthcare.
- The Socialists are being forced to flog off their elegant central Paris HQ. Crashing from 284 Députés to 31 in the Legislative Elections has serious effects on income, down from €27 million p.a. to a more humble €7 million. If you could use 3000 sq. metres, haven’t too disreputable a background, would like to be round the corner from the National Assembly and, above all, don’t have too many hang-ups over its 40 year Socialist history, it’s yours for between €50-€70 million. Those few Socialist apparatchiks who remain will have to get used to far less salubrious surroundings in the north of Paris or (whisper it) the wrong side of the Périphérique.
Something completely different
Reader(s) who find they can’t get enough of this individualistic approach to the English language are invited to glance at a blog called Brexit in a Bottle where there will be an occasional Press Review by Yours Truly, as well as other goodies for your delectation.