Anger, anger everywhere … except at The Chateau

Anger? What anger? ‘In two and a half years, I’ve never seen [Macron] make a scene or fly off the handle.’ (A member of the inner circle)

For Le Figaro Magazine readers a New Year’s treat were 4,000 exclusive words revealing all ‘Inside the secret Elysée: Emmanuel Macron’s real life in his palace. Those wanting more than the 150 word freebie teaser – and (understandably) not wishing to throw away €1 for a month’s access to Le Figaro – can find the remaining 3,850 words in (tedious) extenso by googling ‘eventnewstv vraie vie macron’.

Not entirely tedious. Some (doubtless-Macron-approved) comments are worth repeating from this unsexed-up dossier of an Everyday Story of Folk in Le Château. A butler with 40 years Elysée experience says (dis?)approvingly: ‘This is the first time I’ve seen political advisers working so hard. We’re bored stiff at the Elysée. No-one has sex any more. You used to have to knock on doors two or three times to be sure of not interrupting someone in flagrante.’ Another talks of Macron’s advisers using up ‘the libido of power through writing technical papers’.

What better way for the President to continue hoovering-up support from the traditional right than by providing such insights to Le Figaro’s very conservative, very very aged, readers?

The article leads with a staged snap of President and Wife, taken by Presidential Snapper, Soazig de la Moissonière. We see The President at work. Sat at his 3.5m wide designer ‘High Performance Fibre-Reinforced Concrete’ Presidential Desk … as used by President Chirac (a further dog-whistle for older conservatives?). Brigitte looms, ready to comment. [Unlike this boring photo, Moissonière’s website has scores of charming pix of ‘real Presidential life’. Her homepage has Macron: Man of Destiny, emerging onto the World’s Stage. The shot is especially noteworthy: for one time only, post-Presidential election, Macron is slightly left of centre.] A less-cropped version of that pic of The Desk accompanies a fine article in Der Spiegel (in English) about Macron’s plans.

Last words on That Desk: Maggie suggests it could double as a superior designer bunker. Possibly handy – not everything’s going quite so swimmingly out there.

Anger, Conseil d’Etat style

24 January was special. Government produced the definitive draft of its pension reforms, placing them before Parliament. Accompanying this, Government published the opinion of the Conseil d’Etat (which advises the executive on Matters Legal) on the proposed legislation. The Conseil’s 63 page judgement is ungenerous. ‘Harsh’ was the word employed by the media.

The Conseil was unamused at being given but 3 weeks to opine. More unhelpfully still, Government modified the draft six times over the period. This, declared the Conseil d’Etat, meant they had insufficient time ‘to ensure legal certainty’ about the legislation. ‘All the more regrettable’, they harrumphed, because it concerned a reform ‘unprecedented since 1945, destined to transform for decades to come … a major pillar of the social compact.’

The Government’s impact study? ‘Insufficient’ – there were ‘incomplete financial projections’. The Government’s intended recourse to 29 Ordonnances (statutory instruments) to fill out the legislation? ‘The visibility of the whole – essential for an understanding of the reform’s consequences – is lost’.

The Conseil d’Etat ended by delivering the coup de grâce to Macron’s promise of a ‘universal’ pension scheme replacing 42 current schemes. The draft, they declared, creates ‘five schemes’ and ‘within each scheme … further exceptions’.

Anger on the Streets

Celebrating the long-awaited arrival of those pensions reform proposals, several (leftie) trade unions organised their 8th day of inter-union opposition on 24 January. That was the 51st successive day of anti-pension reform demonstrations. Just when Greater Paris rail users thought they’d got all their trains back, they mostly disappeared again. The Interior Ministry said 250,000 demonstrated altogether … 60,000 more than a week earlier. The trades unions claimed 1.2 million. Paris saw nearly 40,000 marching.

Next day, it was Just Another Saturday all over again. The 63rd consecutive Saturday of gilets jaunes protests. Another day for the desultory remaining hard core gilets jaunes to march. Barely anyone noticed. 100 marched in Lyon, maybe 1,000 in Paris. This week there was almost no violence, and few arrests. However, the previous week there had been yet another example of what appears to be totally gratuitous and excessive police (re)action against a demonstrator. The police officer is under investigation by the Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale. In 2019, IGPN investigations into ‘police violence’ doubled, from the previous year, to 218.

Anger with Macron – and his pension proposals

Two days before the pension reforms were presented to Parliament, pollster Elabe found a growing lack of support for Macron’s proposals. 61% want President Macron to recognise the strength of the opposition and withdraw the reforms.

Worse for Macron, views on pension reform are echoed in other responses: 62% (up 7 points since October) are disappointed by what the President has achieved, only a near-risible 14% are satisfied; 82% say their personal situation hasn’t improved since Macron was elected, with 75% saying the country’s situation has also not improved.

Most disquieting of all (for those of us fearing the consequences) Elabe found only 31% believing that Macron will be re-elected in the 2022 Presidential Election (down 8 points in 3 months). A stunning 69% (up 10 points) say Macron will not be re-elected, with 32% (up all of 13 points) saying ‘definitely not’. That anger is becoming deep-seated.

The Government’s early-January concession of suspending the pension age increase from 62 to 64 – which duly bought off the largest union, the moderate CFDT – appears to have strengthened the discontent. Pollster Ifop found that between 4 January and 20 January, support for the anti-pension-reform movement grew from 44% to 51%.

Government spokesperson Sibeth N’Diaye crowned 24 January as a less-than-wonderful day. Straight-facedly, she told BFM TV that the 61% wanting Government to withdraw the pension reforms were ‘exasperated’ because the issue ‘had been spoken about so much’. People, she said, were ‘fed up’ with ‘too many demonstrations’.

An interesting pictogram has been put together showing the comparative support the last 4 Presidents enjoyed mid-term amongst (i) managers/professionals and (ii) manual workers. All three of Macron’s predecessors had near identical support. Macron? Vive la différence. As Marianne magazine put it: ‘The return of the class struggle.’

Not all anger is on the street

During the early months of the gilets jaunes movement, direct action tactics produced startlingly quick (and tangible) results. It could therefore be that we’ll see increasing guerilla industrial action outside the ambit of the old trades union structures.

The last few days have seen examples. Wildcat electricity cuts in towns to the south of Paris; an ‘attack’ on the HQ of the moderate CFDT union; picketing nuclear power stations; unplanned instant drama outside Peter Brook’s former theatre, Bouffes du Nord, when social media learnt that the President and his wife were out for an evening’s theatre … they had to be evacuated; later that same night the Rotonde restaurant in Montparnasse (where Macron celebrated his first round Presidential Election victory) was firebombed. [Vandalism note: last November, Ifop found that 11% considered vandalism a legitimate expression of anger.]

Meanwhile, the orchestra of the Paris Opera played al fresco, lawyers threw their court robes at the Minister of Justice and employees of the French National Library sang their opposition to the Minister of Culture. And in a sign of possibly worse things to come, certain Greater Paris railway workers began splitting away from their traditional trade unions, supporting those intent on more hard-line opposition to the Government.

No anger in Le Château, but anger in l’Eglise

Macron went to Jerusalem for the Auschwitz 75th liberation anniversary. Exactly like Chirac in 1996 (yet another dog-whistle?) Macron yelled in English at the top of his (more-French-accented-than-usual) voice. Israeli security officials were exceeding their authority by entering St Anne’s Church, one of France’s 4 Jerusalem territories.

Something (not) completely different

Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman, compares France and the USA over 5 tweets, after financier Steve Rattner wrote a stupid anti-Elizabeth Warren piece.

Krugman’s laconic punchline: ‘On the Rawls test — which society would you choose if you didn’t know who you’d be — France surely beats America.’ Yay.

‘Meanwhile, income growth for the bottom half of the population has been better there than here.’

‘And thanks in part to universal health care, when it comes to life expectancy there’s no comparison. (I liked the theory that it was all about red wine, but apparently researchers don’t believe that anymore).’

‘France is no utopia. But the idea that it’s some kind of hellhole is weirdly out of touch with reality. On the Rawls test — which society would you choose if you didn’t know who you’d be — France surely beats America.’

When I was one, I had just begun. When I was two, I was nearly new. When I was three, I was hardly me. (A.A. Milne) OR Another year bites the dust

This blog-venture began on 27 January 2017. By happenstance, that date turned out to be exactly 100 days before the election which gave us President Macron.

Thanks for reading.

Here Beginneth Year Four.

3 thoughts on “Anger, anger everywhere … except at The Chateau

  1. Morning Richard
    Excellent insight as usual. And of course happy birthday for 27th January, which marks two other very important world events: The liberation of Auschwitz and the birthday of my son & heir.
    On the police violence point, I had dinner last weekend with (amongst others) a police officer from Macron’s squad. He was at the Bouffes du Nord, and he admits that it was ‘a damned close run thing’ to quote Arthur Wellesley.

    Although clearly everyone should be very critical of unprovoked police violence, they are often subjected to quite horrific and unacceptable levels of aggression and provocation, and occasionally snap. They are photographed and the pics are widely circulated on social media as targets. I was told of one demonstration where plain clothes officers in the demonstrating crowd were told that someone is going to be killed today, and it doesn’t matter much ‘if it’s a flic or a manifestant’. All a long way from the peaceful demonstrations permitted under the Constitution. At the risk of stating the obvious, everyone needs to calm down, but there appears to be a fat chance of that happening.
    More strength to your writing arm!


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