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.
Matt (Bristol) says
…and a presidential system.
nick stewart says
They like revolutions. We don’t.
Paul W says
It is far too early to judge Macron. While it seems he is in the great French Radical republican tradition (vote left with your heart and right with your wallet), he has yet to translate the presidential vote into parliamentary seats and, if successful, to turn parliamentary representation into a stable political vehicle for change. My guess is the key test will come when he has to confront France’s myriad vested interests over things touching on, inter alia, the 35 hour week, the retirement age and farming – a test French governments of all stripes have backed away from repeatedly over the past 30 or 40 years.
I’d love to believe that all that is lacking in the UK is “the personnel and the will to do what needs to be done”. But it isn’t; FPTP sees to that, as the SDP demonstrated in the 80s.
When faced with a similar situation, Tony Blair joined the Labour Party and waited through three election defeats – and then won a stonking majority and turned his back on electoral reform. Labour’s centrists are going to do exactly the same thing, and for the same reason – ultimately you end up with pretty unfettered power. And if we have to go through Brexit enabled by the Labour party, clearly Chuka et al believe that that is a price worth paying.
Disappointing. Really disappointing.
I think Emmanuel Macron is self consciously emulating Justin Trudeau. Best wishes to him. He has had extraordinary good fortune. The presidency was Juppé’s for the taking, except that hubris overcame the French conservative Right with Fillon. The legislative elections are very hard to predict, but I suspect will see a rout of the Left.
Where Macron has done well has been to resist making the kind of foolhardy promises that hobbled Hollande. It is likely that Macron’s movement En Marche and Bayrou’s Radicals will have to form some kind of cohabitation with the conservative Right, though he may be able to include some socialist former ministers.
Internationally and across the EU, I think that Macron will emerge as a highly significant figure. There will be a strong link with Germany whether the Chancellor is Angela Merkel or Martin Schulz.
p.s. Those ruing the rejection of Le Pen are those who yearn for cataclysmic destruction of the EU, the same who having predicted the end of the world, would press the nuclear button themselves.
And who do we have? Eternal student-union leader Tim Farron with his endearing tendency to put his foot in his mouth – on gay sex and now on having had a poster of Mrs Thatcher.