Archive for the 'France' Category

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Is France the next to fall to populism?

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

How far do the Yellow Vest protests go?

Emmanuel Macron was always an unlikely revolutionary. Graduate of the ENA, high-flying civil servant, investment banker with Rothschilds, and later Minister of Finance and the Economy: his was the model of an insider’s path to power. And yet En Marche was a revolution of sorts. Despite Macron’s own background, his election was in its own way a rejection of the status quo. His style, however, was never fitted to that role – if it was even a role he accepted, which is doubtful.

Instead, perceptions of Macron’s straight-talking have morphed from a refreshing honesty to an out-of-touch arrogance with remarkable rapidity and his approval rating has dived from a net balance at the start of the year to the wrong side of -50 now. That might not be quite as bad as Francois Hollande registered at times (one poll once found only 4% with a positive opinion of the former president) but it’s still awful – and it is worse than Hollande scored at the equivalent point in his presidency.

Hence, relatedly, the Gilet Jaunes protests. Ostensibly, these were about fuel tax rises but in truth the anger runs much deeper, hence the continuance of the protests despite the cancellation of the tax rise. Indeed, that lack of both a focus on a specific grievance and of a national leadership to the protests is what makes them particularly dangerous.

    The fact that the opposition is seemingly as much to a way of politics as to an individual policy is a serious problem for the government, in that it cannot easily be appeased by a U-turn.

If the protests are to peter out, the more likely causes will be bad weather and Christmas rather than anything political; Macron is fortunate that this has happened now rather than in April or May. Even so, without addressing the deeper grievances, they clearly have the potential to spring back up again later.

Similarly, while the lack of a political leadership to the protests is in one way an advantage – there is no direct physical threat to the government in the same sense that there would be in an attempted military coup, for example – that also makes them more amorphous and impossible to settle through direct negotiation.

And of course, France is a country rightly renowned for its revolutionary edge, if for the wrong reasons. Forget 1789. Forget 1968 even (though the parallels are potentially there). At the last presidential elections only last year, some 40% voted for either the populist hard right under Le Pen or the populist hard left under Melenchon in the first round. A lot of people are very disillusioned with politics-as-normal and have been willing to cast their votes accordingly.

Where does France go from here? My guess is that without a revolutionary leadership to the protests, the violence will continue for the time being until it becomes clear that they’re futile, that the state isn’t going compromise on essentials and that life has moved on. Macron, however, has suffered a blow from which he will find it hard to recover. His popularity is probably shot permanently and a large part of his authority with it.

For the time being, he remains less unpopular that just about any other serious candidate for the presidency in 2022 but he’s now in a position where someone could easily do to him what he did to Fillon in 2017 – though those with more knowledge of French politics than me will need to identify potential candidates. More seriously, if Macron no longer has any credibility as a candidate from the outside (and it’s odd that he ever did), and the Republicans and PS have not recovered from their battering last year, where then to the voters turn? The populist surge running across much of the West is far from exhausted and France is as susceptible to it as anywhere, in its own way.

David Herdson



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French toast – Bread and butter issues burn Macron

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Aux armes citoyens! or at least put on your yellow hi-vis. In the last month, 50 years after the explosion of 1968, the French are once again taking to the streets.  Whereas Mai 68 was a cocktail of demands for a freer more open society, Decembre 18 is more a cry of anger about a stagnant standard of living.

France is increasingly struggling to satisfy its citizen’s aspirations. In the post war world France progressed rapidly during Les Trente Glorieuses  the period 1945-75 when the economy could do no wrong,  generations grew up in the safety of a state planned system. But then since the eighties the old formulae have struggled to deliver the goods. Worse, governments have continued to act as if nothing has changed.

At the micro level successive governments have put more demands and regulation on employers and businesses, at the macro level joining the Euro and a failure to react to globalisation have all stressed the French economy. 

On its own this would be a difficult situation, however the problems of living standards are not falling equally across the nation. Paris, like its twin sister London, seems largely impervious to the problems; the Ile de France region has higher growth, higher salaries and lower unemployment.

Out in the regions it’s a different matter – slow growth, high unemployment but worst of all little hope of things changing.So provincial France is taking to the streets, including the streets of Paris.

The protests have been set off by a proposed rise in fuel tax which since it is immediate and hits drivers, impacts the provinces harder than Paris. But this is simply the spark which set the fire alight there has been a slow build of problems in France mirrored by the rise of the political extremes and the decline of the traditional left and right.

And then there’s Emmanuel Macron

The French President is a product of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration France’s training school for its senior politicians and civil servants.  ENA graduates come out almost with a right to rule, an attitude they carry with them. Macron came to power with an agenda to modernise France and push through overdue reforms. Initially he made progress with labour reforms for SMEs and reforms in the SNCF the highly unionised rail company.  On the world stage too he set out his stall on Europe, Trump and Internationalism.

However as time has progressed Macrons biggest problem is looking like Macron himself. The early veneer of a French JFK has worn off to reveal a more familiar Louis XIV figure. 

In a series of less than successful walkabouts, Macron’s  meet the people gaffes  have  revealed  him to be somewhat autocratic  with a je m’enfoutisme to  the concerns of ordinary people.

Dismissive, disinterested, discourteous all at the same time Macron has managed to lose the man on the Metro  and is now the president for the rich. His approval ratings are hitting new lows in the history of the French republic.

For now it’s not so much Louis XIV as Manny – Antoinette.

So where next? Already Macron has had to recognise his failings.  The law on fuel tax is to be delayed in a climb down to restore basic law and order.  The protests are already damaging the economy to the point where Frances EU budget submission may be shakier than Italy’s. 

But with the climb down comes loss of authority and worse – encouragement to go back to the barricades next time some unpopular reform hits the statute book. With European elections in 2019 Macron’s party is not looking in good shape, the centre is in danger of being squeezed from the extreme left and  extreme right. Furthermore the chance to strut the world stage has lessened. 

Macron’s undoubted Europeanism looks less threatening as he wobbles at home. Across the Rhine Frau Merkel can only hope France can get its act together. Now is the time when we get to see how serious Macron is about pushing his agenda, to progress he must seriously rethink his approach.  Mitterand did just that after his first two years in office and went on to serve two full terms so all is still to play for. The test really comes back to Macron himself.  If he fails then we may yet see Sadiq Khan asking French Bankers have they thought of moving to somewhere, calm, business like and predictable.

Bon courage.

Alanbrooke



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PB’s lunchtime cartoon for the day of the Macron visit

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

What’s TMay’s strategy?



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Macron’s first big decision – choosing his Prime Minister. Chris from Paris looks at the betting

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

On the previous thread Chris from Paris gave his views on who Macron is going to choose as his first Prime Minister. Betffair has just got a market up. These are Chris’s views with the numbers being the Betfair price when he posted.

Pascal Lamy 10.0 : ok price, a bit low: Lamy has a great international profile but pretty unlikely PM as he has never been either a MP or a minister

Le Drian 7.2 : the price is too low, as Le Drian will keep the Defence ministry if he wants but refuses to leave the socialist party, thus could not lead the En marche campaign for the parliamentary election

Philippe 4.1 : very good price, as the current rumor in Paris is that he is the favorite. He is a centre-right republicain, was Juppé’s spokesman, is reasonably young (47), a former MP and current Le Havre mayor.

Idrac 4.4: another good price. Former (low-rank) Chirac and Sarkozy minister, former CEO of the Paris metro and of the French railways. Probably the most experienced and credible female candidate from the Macron camp.

Bayrou 6.2: the price is too low. He had a key role in the campaign but is hated by most of the right since he supported Hollande in 2012.

Lagarde 16 : would be the perfect candidate if she had not been convicted for “negligence” regarding a payment to a controversial businessman a few months ago.

Le Maire 10: ok price. He would clearly like to be chosen but waited Sunday night to offer his services and strongly criticized Macron a few months back.

Goulard 5.2 : price a bit too low. She will enter the government but probably get the Foreign Affairs. A MEP (and former advisor to Prodi in Brussels) she is Macron’s european affairs specialist. She never had any National parliamentary mandate.

Borloo 10 : has left politics 3 years ago for “medical reasons” (liquid lunches mostly). He is popular but joined Macron very late and is considered unreliable.

Ferrand 5 : the price is too low The ultimate insider of the campaign but almost totally unknown by the general public.

Collomb 10 : I don’t see it. He is the Lyon mayor and first fan of Macron but he seems too old (70).

– Barbaroux 20 Schiappa 25 Griveau 25: Who?

Royal 21 : hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Malek Boutih 20 : The price seems right. The choice of this son of Algerian parents who grew up in a shanty town would be a stunning development. But he is quite controversial due to his strong denunciation of any complacency towards radical islam.

Valls 34 / Sapin 25 / Touraine 25 / Taubira 25 Cazeneuve 25 : I don’t think that Macron is suicidal enough to choose a pillar of the Hollande team

Kosciusko-Morizet 50 : She ticks many boxes (woman, 43, very centrist and “modern” image, former Mp and Minister) but has publicly declined the openings from the Macron camp.

In summary my favorites are Philippe and Idrac and I backed both

Thanks Chris. This should all be resolved in the next few days.

My view is that Macron is young and will go for someone from his generation.

Mike Smithson




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Macron ends up doing even better than the exit polls

Monday, May 8th, 2017

New York Times graphic

His victory was almost two to one

In the immediate aftermath of the first round two weeks ago I wrote here that the final outcome was nearest thing to an absolute certainty you could have and I bet accordingly.

There was no way I could see, during the final phase of the campaign that Le Pen could win given the sheer size of the opinion polls gap.

The polls had been dead on for the first round and it was hard seeing anything other than a good performance by them in the second.

    In the end Macron was understated which I put down to the French law that prevented any polls to be published after Friday

If we had had polling taking in the Saturday my guess is that they would have got it closer. There was a clear trend to Macron from Wednesday onwards.

Surprisingly Macron’s price offered remarkable value even till after the count had started and the exit polls.

We had that remarkable statement from Ladbrokes on. Saturday that 90% of the bets being placed with them were on Le Pen a mood that, perhaps, had been helped by memories of Brexit and Trump.

So what has been the biggest non UK/US political betting event is over and we can now look forward to June 8th and later in the year the German election.

Mike Smithson




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Macron wins by an estimated 65.5% to 34.5%

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

The powers of the French President

Mike Smithson




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Marine le Pen might be 26% behind in the polls but she’s attracting 90% of bets at Ladbrokes

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

The polls close at 1900 BST tomorrow when should get the next polls.

Mike Smithson




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Macron moves to a 90%+ chance as another day goes by and his 20% lead holds firm

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

The time’s running out for Le Pen

Latest betting on the French Presidential elections has Macron moving to a 90% chance with the far right Marine Le Pen on 10%. There is not much time left for Le Pen’s hoped for surge to bring about victory.

French law imposes a black out on published polls after Friday and the election takes place on Sunday closing at 1900 BST.

What is extraordinary about the polling is how all of them have the gap within just 1%. Macron is between 19% and 20% ahead.

Giving how successful the French polls were in the first round then it is hard to see how they could be so wrong in the second but there still are quite a large number of undecideds amongst supporters of contenders who did not make it to the final cut.

The election, of course, is decided by the total number of votes each candidates gets throughout France.

The betting in the UK has been huge and the contest continues to attract large amounts of money. The more this looks like a certainty for Macron the more it will attract those punters who want to make what appears to be a certain return over a very short period. That will cause the price to tighten even further.

Mike Smithson