In my book, “2017”, I predicted a Le Pen victory yesterday. When I wrote it, Macron had not yet emerged as one of the main contenders. It is amazing for me to think just how much the new president’s election win came from nowhere.
Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way: the idea that Macron is going to mean a worse Brexit than any other candidate would have is nonsense. Some right-wing tabloid got themselves in a tizzy about Le Pen, thinking that electing a hard-line nationalist who has no love for the EU would mean France would go easy on Britain during the negotiations. They seem to have forgotten the fact that nationalists have a distinct tendency to put their own country’s interests first, second and last. So why Le Pen would have supposedly been so eager to cut Britain slack, I’ve never understood. Macron will be the same as any other French president would have been: looking out for France’s well being and taking that as the yardstick with which to approach any discussions with Great Britain on anything at all, including Brexit.
That out of the way, what is of real interest in Macron’s ascendancy is that here is a man that started a new political movement/party around about a year ago, one based on pro-Europeanism, free trade, social and economic liberalism, and he’s managed to become president. That he could do this in France only heightens the achievement; a joke at many ALDE meetings in Brussels has been centred on the lack of French liberals. Yet here we are, a man who ran on an expressly liberal platform is president of France.
When you compare this to the problems the centre-left and liberalism is having in the UK, it can seem almost comical. The PLP has stood quiet since the last Labour leadership contest in September 2016, the line being they have nowhere to go and nothing to do but hope the wheels fall off the Corbyn train enough for the membership to come to its senses. The Labour brand is so important, they say, no one can get round it. Yet in France, someone has broken off from the main centre-left party, started his own thing and then in a very short period of time has won an election.
This is what Macron’s victory shows us: leadership and a real vision is more important than old parties now. In a few weeks time, both the centre-left and the liberals of this country will be staring in the face a massive Tory majority and no upsides to fall back on. Macron shows that there can be a route to power – if only you have the personnel and the will to do what needs to be done.