Emmanuel Macron’s emphatic win in the second round of Sunday’s presidential election was a major event not just for France, but for the eurozone as a whole. In a contest pitched by his opponent Marine Le Pen as being between “patriots and globalists,” he not only won by a more decisive margin than many anticipated but did it draped in an EU flag. His programme emphasises not just domestic reform in France but renewal of the eurozone and its functioning. Crucially these twin agendas are intrinsically linked and come at a time when, despite pessimism still abounding on the comment pages of the British press, the European economy is putting in what can only be described as a good performance.
Macron and those involved in his young political movement En Marche! have been keen to sell themselves as being of neither the right nor the left and outside of France this ambiguity has allowed politicians as varied as George Osborne and Sadiq Khan to hail his election as a victory for their own brand of politics. Macron is certainly a social liberal, a supporter of globalisation and the European Union and, at least in a French context, something of an economic liberal as well, but a deeper look at En Marche‘s manifesto places the party firmly in the tradition of the wider European centre-left. The proposed domestic agenda feels distinctly more “Nordic” than “Anglo-Saxon,” emphasising not just flexible labour markets but decent standards of welfare. Moves to raise the cost of precarious work for employers and expand unemployment benefits to the self-employed sit alongside efforts to give firms more ability to negotiate wages and working hours.
Both the domestic and European agendas draw on the technocratic, reformist tradition of the French Socialist Party that can be traced back to Jacques Delors, Pascal Lamy and (whisper it) Francois Hollande. It was noteworthy that Macon named checked and thanked his deeply unpopular predecessor in his sombre victory speech on Sunday evening. Progress on the domestic front will require either a strong showing by En Marche in June’s parliamentary elections or deft alliance building with the existing parties. Most likely it will require both.
For all the gloom to be found in Anglosphere…