Ministers leave … or promise to leave … or reflect aloud on leaving
- Environment Minister Hulot (N° 3 in Government) – Gone
- Interior Minister Collomb (N° 2 in Government) announced his 2019 departure, in an interview with l’Express magazine. Instantly, uber-powerful Collomb was seen by many as a lame duck or, as Le Monde put it, ‘An Interior Minister who’s already on the exterior’. Yet magazine Marianne‘s take was that this was a challenge to the President ‘Sack me if you dare’, representing the end of the Beautiful Friendship that once was Macron-Collomb. Collomb is off to (try to) reclaim his former fiefdom as Mayor of Lyon. Collomb said ‘Ministers wanting to be candidates in the 2020 Municipal Elections should leave the Government after the 2019 Euro-Election’ [like me] … advice on prospective further Governmental departees that the President will not have appreciated from his long-standing confidant
- Prime Minister Philippe (N° 1 in Government) – ‘What’s he playing at? … Some people imagine he’s got bigger ambitions’ (popular Le Parisien). He would be far from the first French Premier who dreamed Presidential dreams, muttering ‘I could do that‘ . This week, on France2 TV, Philippe said he definitely ‘isn’t thinking about’ becoming Mayor of Paris, but ‘doesn’t exclude’ returning to tranquil Le Havre in 2020 and becoming its Mayor again. [For the sake of good order, he was asked if he had Presidential ambitions. Quelle surprise. He doesn’t.]
- Minister in charge of Parliamentary Relations Castaner (‘CEO’ of the President’s République en Marche Party and formerly Candidate Macron’s spokesperson) told a press conference there’d be a no-holds-barred reflection on how to tax inheritance, so as to fight against ‘increasing inequalities due to birth’. But in just 72 hours the Elysée reacted: Oh no there won’t. ‘The President has formally excluded any change to inheritance rights during his term of office’. For any myopic failing to see what was written very clearly on the wall, the President was quoted as saying: ‘Stop messing with the pensioners … We’re not touching inheritance taxes as long as I’m here’. A put-down in spades for a formerly seriously golden boy. And he’s one who formerly knew the President’s mind. How could he have so dramatically misread the tea-leaves? Will he stay? Will he fall? Will he be pushed? Will he jump?
- En Marche Party spokesperson Griveaux – ‘If I’m going to run as candidate to be Mayor of Paris, I will leave the Government’ (Le Parisien)
- Minister for Digital Affairs Mahjoubi – I ‘would be a good candidate to be Paris [Mayor]’ (Le Figaro)
- Minister of Public Accounts Darmanin – ‘If the President approves my plans, I will be a candidate for Mayor of Tourcoing’ (where?)
There’ve been 6 opinion polls in September. Each contained bad (to terrible) news for the President as he touched new lowest levels of satisfaction since he took office. Ifop reported Macron dropping a further 5 points in public satisfaction from August’s 34% to 29%, the same level of support that Odoxa found. OpinionWay said there was but 28% satisfaction, while Ipsos polled an eye-wateringly low 25% satisfaction. 2 polls only found over 30% satisfaction with the President: Elabe 31% and BVA 32%. Those saying they’re actually ‘dissatisfied’ with the President have increased to a weighty 70% or thereabouts – with around half of those saying they’re ‘very dissatisfied’.
My favourite commentator, Gérard Courtois (Le Monde) writes that the President – despite personally launching his Government’s new, ambitious programmes on health and the fight against poverty – is simply failing to get through. For Courtois, the President’s failure to appreciate the damage caused by his use of such language as Gauls ‘resistant to change’ and the unemployed who only need to ‘cross the street’ to find work [see last couple of blog posts] ‘overshadows all else’ that Macron’s trying to achieve.
‘Between high-flown speeches and his bar talk, Emmanuel Macron hasn’t so far found the right register for politics’, writes Courtois, ‘… [and] the ability to … have his vision understood and shared. If he achieves that, the President could once again find the ear of the French. If he fails, the divorce risks becoming irreparable.’
Incidentally, Macron gave an exclusive 6 minute interview (in French) to TMC (walkin’ and talkin’ à la West Wing … except with less sparky dialogue) in UN Building corridors on his way to the Security Council. He admits (it only took him a month since saying it) that his ‘Gauls resistant to change’ expression was ‘an error, and I admit it’.
Prime Minister Philippe made a further move in what must be recognised a proper campaign to stop screwing pensioners. He called it a ‘tax gesture’. He upped the number of pensioners to be protected from the effects of his own earlier ‘anti-pensioner’ tax increase. All of 300,000 oldies, he said, wouldn’t pay the tax increase. And then the PM’s office made pensioners feel better still: it’s an even bigger gesture. 300,000 households will benefit, not individual pensioners. So if there’s 2 oldies in a household the fiscal pleasure will double.
Weekly magazine Marianne reported that the President intended to ‘address the nation’ in October. It was increasingly felt that his extended silence – especially regarding BenallaGate (The Affair of the Violent Bodyguard) – was the wrong sort of gesture. No sooner was that rumour out and running when … Le Journal de Dimanche got briefed otherwise and said there probably wouldn’t be any such address.
Those Elysée spokespersons. They’re such teases with their endlessly modified hints as to the President’s desire as to how best (if at all) to communicate with The Masses.
And yesterday (surprised?) it’s all change again. Le Figaro quotes (formerly in touch) Castaner as saying that the President will address the nation. In days, or maybe weeks. But, says Castaner, in a screeching U-turn from former policy on the necessary near-silence of the Deity Formerly Known As Jupiter: ‘It’s important that the President regularly addresses the French’. The hows and the whens remain to be announced.
‘Macron’s battle plan to win back the love of the French’ (Le Point)
Recently Prime Minister Philippe met increasingly edgy Parliamentary troops from the centrist Democratic Movement Party. They’d joined the President’s En Marche Party to strengthen the Government’s majority but felt increasingly adrift. In a seriously over-optimistic analysis, the PM described the Government’s Rentrée as ‘complicated’. Now the Government will concentrate on the (possibly) better news to come:
- increased low-paid work initiatives
- anti-poverty programmes
- higher pensions for those with the lowest incomes
- hospital reorganisation to ensure access to those living in areas badly served
all of which will be closely followed by
- plans for reforming unemployment benefit
- a major upheaval in pension reform
When we’re smiling
The Government really hopes that the just-published 2019 Budget will succeed in ‘getting the French to smile again’ (Le Point wrote that smiling is almost as good as loving). The French will enjoy ‘a year of massive tax cuts’.
The headline-grabbing number the Government’s promoting is €6 billion. Those tax cuts represent, we’re told, The Biggest Single Tax Giveaway Since 2008. That was when Sarkozy cut tax on overtime hours worked. As with any Budget, there’s winners and losers BUT there’s certainly a smile on the face of the employers. And the biggest Ministerial winner in these troubled times? Let the Armed Services take a bow.
The proposed €6bn tax cuts combine lower contributions with the start of the (long-announced) progressive removal, over 3 years, for 80% of those who pay it, of the local residence tax (taxe d’habitation). [Fat-cats, however, may well end up still paying it; while fat-second-home-owners will definitely continue paying the tax].
Also, those €6bn cuts in household taxes may acquire a different perspective when
- compared to the whopping €20bn business tax cuts with which corporations are being pleasured next year, and
- it’s remembered that households will suffer fuel/tobacco tax rises, plus a near-freeze in pensions/other benefits … all of which leads left-leaning think-tank OFCE to forecast household tax cuts of only €3.5bn, rather than the mythic €6bn.
OFCE went on to point out why the smile on most Oldies’ faces will become increasingly strained. A household with at least one pensioner will find they’re, on average, €200 worse off in 2019. As for the following year, the pain will actually double: €400 worse off on average come 2020.
Nationalists v Europeans: time to think about the (surely destined to be seriously
exciting worrying) Euro-Elections
President Macron intends to make May 2019’s Euro-Elections a confrontation between ‘progressives and nationalists’. In Salzburg recently Brits concentrated on Brexit humiliation. But Macron had long moved on. He thundered: ‘Countries which don’t want more Frontex [European Border and Coast Guard Agency] or more solidarity should leave Schengen; countries which don’t want more Europe should stop receiving structural funds [investing in job creation]. Europe’s not an à la carte menu, it’s a political project’ [at last that’s music to Brexit ears].
Macron condemned those who say ‘I like Europe when it gives me money, when it helps my people prosper, when it allows my workers to earn a living in nearby countries. But there won’t be a single migrant, not one single refugee’. He went on: ‘The crisis Europe has been living through over the last decade is existential. Can the founding fathers’ political project – which consisted in knowing how to bring together national interests to achieve something greater – still win through? … This is a historic struggle. This will not be an Election like any other.’
With 8 months till the Euro-Elections, Le Pen’s National Rally (having changed its name, but not its raison d’etre, from Front National) stands near-first equal in Euro-voting intention. Odoxa found the President’s LREM Party with 21.5% support, and Le Pen’s National Rally near-level-pegging at 21%. Way behind are
- right-wing Républicains (14%)
- Mélenchon’s hard left France Unbowed (12.5%)
- the alternative ultra-right France Arise party for those who still feel queasy about overtly supporting the traditional ultra-right (6%) … and, bringing up the rear,
- assorted Greens (5%), The Party Formerly Known as The Mighty Socialist Party (4.5%) and erstwhile profoundly unsuccessful Socialist Presidential candidate Hamon’s vanity non-project Génération·s (4%).
Le Pen recently made clear the nasty line she’d follow. She condemned the ‘mad immigrationist policies’ of Brussels. ‘We are’, she said, ‘living through Europe’s submersion and France’s own silent, shameful submersion’. She spoke of ‘villages requisitioned’ and ‘money flowing freely’ to welcome immigrants. She denounced ‘mass immigration … worsening delinquency and feelings of insecurity’. But ‘the great battle of the Euro-Elections can change everything’ and provoke a ‘major historic change’ which has already brought ‘our ideas to power in Poland, Hungary, Italy, Austria’.
Odoxa also asked which subjects most preoccupied potential Euro-voters:
- cost of living (35%)
- immigration (32%)
- security and the fight against terrorism (27%)
- environment (22% – they lie)
- unemployment/health/French identity/education/tax/and last and definitely least Europe (11-14%)
As every Party searches for anyone half-charismatic to lead their Euro-campaign, the right-wing Républicains have come up with a (rare) idea. They’ve asked the man sticking it to the Brits, Michel Barnier, to be their standard-bearer. While Marianne reports that Macron is interested in wooing Barnier to head up his En Marche list. Yet it looks as though Barnier will scorn all his suitors. The UK Government may be following this saga with particular interest.
One Is The Champion
At the back-end of President Macron’s visit to the annual UN jamboree, he co-hosted the second One Planet Summit. He and India’s Modi (plus 5 others) received the modestly unassuming title ‘Champion of the Earth’.
Paris Peace Forum
The President will start a 6 day ‘commemorative tour’ of the northern and eastern World War 1 front lines in early November, marking the centenary of the end of WW1. It will also help demonstrate to The Non-Paris Parts of France that the President is President of all the French. The solemnity of several memorial ceremonies should avoid effortless put-downs emanating from the Presidential Mouth.
Following his Week in the Trenches, the President will host the first Paris Peace Forum. The leaders of a hundred countries, all WW1 combattants, have been invited ‘to reflect together, propose concrete initiatives, reinvent multilateralism and all forms of contemporary co-operation, so peace gains momentum every day.’
Will Trump attend? Doesn’t sound like his sort of agenda. But what else can he do now he hasn’t got his Washington Veterans Day March-Past to salivate over? Mean killjoys rained on Trump’s Planned Parad. CNBC reported that instead of the original $12 million forecast cost, the military had said there’d be a $92 million price-tag for a Trump rip-off of France’s 14th July.
And if Trump comes, will there be the same near-silent reaction to his Paris presence as last July? What a stark contrast between last year’s 14th July Parisian near-non-existent combined mini-protest against both Trump’s presence and Macron’s proposed changes to the Labour Law and London’s/UK’s substantial anti-Trump demonstrations.
Trump – greeting Macron in New York – described relations between the two as ‘99% very good’. Could that number deteriorate when Trump learns that France’s Foreign Affairs Minister, when in New York, met representatives from
- International Criminal Court – ‘The [ICC] unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests … for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us’ (US National Security Adviser John Bolton)
- UNESCO – US withdrawal effective 31 December 2018
- United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees – the USA contributed $300 million/year, 30% of UNWRA’s budget; after paying $60 million in January the US plans no further payments.
Former Socialist Prime Minister Valls (who sat as a Deputy with the President’s En Marche Party) is finally going to seek Fame and Fortune as Mayor of Barcelona (even if he’ll probably only find Obscurity and Penury). This will, with little sadness, therefore almost certainly be the very last time his name is mentioned in this blog.
However, after one final round of weekend TV interviews, Valls leaves an unwanted challenge for his newly-found-friends. A bye-election for his replacement. He held his seat last summer by all of 139 votes from Mélenchon’s hard-left France Unbowed Party. Although the seat had been a Socialist stronghold for nearly 40 years, the hard left would want (need?) to be seen to win. Yet there’s a chance for almost all Parties with The Left vote likely to be split several ways: so right-wing Républicains and En Marche will each hope to benefit.
BenallaGate Season 2
The President’s hyper-violent former ‘bodyguard’, Benalla (who now denies having that role) was supposed to be chatting to investigating judges yesterday. All about his unprovoked attacks on 2 ‘demonstrators’ last MayDay, while illegally wearing a police officer’s insignia. But suddenly, without explanation, the meeting was postponed. Benalla struck lucky: his preparations may well have been affected by two events.
First, investigative website Mediapart published a Benalla selfie. It showed The Non-Bodyguard waving a gun in a Poitiers restaurant last April, just before the Presidential run off vote against Le Pen. Problem: Benalla had no gun licence at the time. He’d asked Macron’s campaign managers for their agreement to his being armed. But … request refused. Poitiers magistrates have opened a preliminary investigation into his gun-toting. Second, reported Le Parisien, yet another demonstrator has appeared who claims he too was ‘violently’ and ‘illegally’ ‘arrested’ by the Non-Bodyguard, some hours before the other two demonstrators were beaten up and arrested. All interesting stuff for Benalla’s newly-appointed lawyers: they’re seriously heavyweight briefs who’ve previously had seriously heavyweight clients. What good lawyers
anyone ex-Presidential-trusties can find with Legal Aid these days.