Springtime for Wauquiez et la France
That line doesn’t scan as well as the original, but it’s as good as I can make it. Yes, this weekend is what so many in France have been longing for. An analysis of France’s current woes by Les Républicains. What should happen ‘So France remains France’? Now we can benefit from their reflections.
This weekend was designated ‘Springtime for Les Républicains.’ Bliss is it in that Républicain Springtime to be alive. O Lucky Us. Or at least one and a half million of us. That’s the number of leaflets which Wauquiez’s always-generous-spirited and always-very-conservative Party were intending to distribute this weekend.
These leaflets will gladden the heart, as they elevate political debate. What’s their analysis for how France should remain France? No prizes. The predictable stuff that Any Hard Right Party would propose as it continues trying to win back those who wandered Further-Rightwards into the Front National. [Indeed those souls may now be still more lost ever since 80% of Front National members voted to drop that last-generation ‘Front National’ title in favour of a much purer Rassemblement National (‘National Rally’)]
Les Républicains’ prescription doesn’t involve much by way of positive language. They identify SIX THREATS to France remaining France. They claim that ‘the reality of our country’ is that
- There have never been so many taxes
- There have never been so many immigrants
- There has never been such a risk of terrorism
- There has never been such communautariste [multicultural] pressure [dog-whistle code for the threat brought by ‘them’ who wish to pursue ‘their’ community interests in preference to the (judeo-)christian republican values of those who can trace back their Frenchness for several generations]
- There has never been such an explosion of crime
- There has never been such territorial breakdown [between urban and rural]
The full prescription of wide-ranging measures Les Républicains will employ to fight these threats is extensively set out on their website (in French) – eg preventive detention of those identified as a danger/banning the veil at University/expelling 300,000 illegal immigrants from France over 5 years/re-establishing the state of emergency. All measures – and there are scores more – dredged from the same swampy terrain as the classic Ultra-Right nostrums.
A good reason for the quickest of glances at Les Républicains website is to look at the bizarre drawing of Macron they’ve placed beside each headline. Macron looms over every identified threat, arms folded to indicate his disinterested disdain. The accompanying title accuses him of ‘missing the point’ of each threat. Bit lame those insults. But, odder still, the Républicains Party logo has been placed on Macron’s left arm looking rather reminiscent of an unpleasant insignia. Nastily strange.
However, no sooner had the leaflet been revealed (on telly of course) when several centrist Républicains disowned both phrase (and campaign), saying it sounded like nothing other than the Front National. The Républicain Party’s N° 2, Virginie (Keep) Calmels and Carry On (former CEO of TV station Canal+ and Juppé’s deputy in Bordeaux) told France Inter radio of her opposition to ‘a populist or extremist right’. She said there’d been a ‘malfunction’ within the Party: she hadn’t approved the leaflet. Wauquiez’s Party apparatchiks retorted – in his absence in Iraq supporting persecuted Christians – that this was no more than a hackneyed old phrase variously used by Mitterand/Chirac/Sarkozy/Macron. But the ‘damage’ by then was done. As a footnote, when Wauquiez commented he proudly took ownership of phrase and campaign.
[Local Politics Note: our once-so-solid Républicain town had not a single Républicain person gracing the market-place this morning giving away these wisdom-filled pearls. Those days when we would have received at least 2 Républicain/Fillon Presidential leaflets through the front door by midday are but a distant memory. More Républicain autumn than spring in this area.]
Better to be lucky with your opposition than your generals (something else Napoleon Bonaparte never said)
President Macron’s non-stop success continues, as opponents and oppositions self-destruct. Whether as candidate or President he’s been the lucky one (and made his luck). Though the opposition’s continuing failures don’t succeed in making him much more liked [YouGov‘s June poll has Macron with 33% favourable opinions – back from March’s 30% low – and 54% unfavourable]. It’s just that there’s no agreement on anyone better.
To Macron’s right, there’s an ever-larger void as Wauquiez tracks constantly rightwards (is he not in danger of falling off the edge soon). To Macron’s left, there is nothing of substance on the centre-left. Those bold Socialists in Spain may have just formed a Government though they hold but 24% of the members of their Lower House. Yet 24% of the National Assembly in France is near-impossible for the French Socialists for at least a couple of Parliaments (and the rest).
So Emmanuel Macron sees this wonderful panorama spread out before him:
- Wauquiez and Marine Le Pen (with maybe Le Pen’s gritty niece, Maréchal, added to the mix) scrapping on the far right over 25-30% of the national vote
- hard-left Mélenchon continuing to get support from some 20% of the populace, but not gaining broader traction as he remains on the hard-left
- part of the classic centre-right, like Prime Minister Philippe, within his own Government, and a handful of the centre-left too.
Could this persuade Emmanuel Macron to be more the President described by Candidate Macron? Neither left nor right. A President who would both liberalise and protect.
Will Macron actually want to shake off that ‘President of the Rich’ tag which has (very successfully, in the eyes of many) dogged him since soon after his mandate began? [Wealth Tax replaced by ‘Mansion’ Tax; taxes cut for investors, but increased for pensioners; labour market liberalised but little protection offered to those whom the State has traditionally helped eg housing support cut]
Macron has increasingly given the impression of being a man who has long put behind him any ‘left’ credentials and who is far more interested in ‘liberalising’ markets than ‘protecting’ those who need Etat providence (the welfare state).
This weekend Le Monde added heft to this discussion. They splashed a front page story about a confidential 1200 word note [printed verbatim inside] sent to the President this week by three leading economists – allegedly, at the President’s express invitation though this is denied by the Elysée.
Not just any old economists. They were among the handful of people instrumental in inspiring and creating Candidate Macron’s original Presidential programme. Messrs Aghion, Martin and Pisani-Ferry are all from that Long Lost Country, the centre-left.
They point out to the President the risks of pursuing policies which firm up ‘the image of a Government which is indifferent to social issues’. They point out that ‘the political Ministers [ie those not from civil society] come from the right [the guilty men are named as Prime Minister Philippe and his 2 Finance Ministers, Le Maire and Darmanin] and that it is difficult for the social message to find strong vocal support within the Government’ [the latest Ifop poll shows more than half of Les Républicains sympathisers supporting the President’s policies, but only a quarter of voters on the left].
The economists come up with some snappy measures which could dampen down that President of the Rich epithet, as they call for
- heavier taxation on the largest estates following death
- a delay in abolishing the taxe d’habitation (property tax) for the 20% most well-off
- the introduction of a progressive taxe foncière (property tax)
Even before this leaked note appeared, there’d been rumblings. Aghion had already said on France Inter radio station: ‘Our model is Scandinavian, not Anglo-Saxon’ [the latter being the traditional pejorative phrase for the economically liberal Americano-British model]
But if Macron finds little reason for steering back centrewards – other than, maybe, with one or two measures – there’s an awful lot of space on the centre-left that’s left empty. Can anyone fill that vacuum?
Well, what about ex-President Hollande? He’s been rushing around the country signing copies of his new book ‘The Lessons of Power’. It’s on its third edition – whatever that means – and is N° 1 on Amazon France’s list of ‘French Politics’ books. Many teary and nostalgic ex-Socialist voters queue, it’s reported, for several hours to get their former hero to sign it. The book deals with his Presidency and his betrayal by Macron (monthly magazine Challenges counted 20 attacks on Macron). It also contains zero references to ex-Socialist Party Secretary, Cambadelis, much to the latter’s surprise … but no-one else.
If the answer’s really François Hollande, it’s a damn stupid question.
We’re all about to go football crazy here. Or at least France will … if the national team get to the World Cup semi-final
I’ve had a small wager on France winning what used to be called the Jules Rimet Trophy. President Macron has probably got 15th July marked down in his diary just in case. Bastille Day followed by World Cup Final Day would have a certain symmetry to it.
Lucky for Mrs May that she won’t need to worry about whether England’s World Cup boycott by Its Titled Ones should be maintained regardless.