A reformed, nimble economy could allow France to capitalise on Brexit—and cement a position at the top table in Europeby Denis MacShane / September 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
Four months after Emmanuel Macron became President of France, the French—and the rest of Europe—still don’t know what they are getting. Would-be Macronologists are filling shelves in France book-stores with instant books on him. Régis Debray, who is now, at 80, the grand old man of French political intellectualism, has a new book arguing that Macron represents the triumph of “neo-protestant globalisation” over “catholic laicism”—whatever that means.
But there are not many cuttings on Macron compared to previous presidents of France like de Gaulle and Mitterrand, let alone when compared to Sarkozy or Hollande.
Based on what little we’ve seen thus far, the best comparison for Macron is probably Tony Blair. His is a reformist fusion of Social and Christian democracy; he’s a Davos man with some regard for reducing unfairness and inequality.
Macron does appear to understand that France needs to break free from its current economic model. This currently suits a majority, especially those products of French elite higher education, the Énarques, who run so much of public and private France. He has looked at Britain and Germany and noted how both countries got going following a difficult labour market reform—Mrs Thatcher’s attack on syndicalist trade union privileges in the 1980s and Gerhard Schröder’s liberalisation moves after 2000.
Macron must move fast, but it is not clear where he can find partners. French trade unions represent only about 7 per cent of the totality of French employees and remain bitterly divided on grounds of history and ideology.
France has a tri-cameral system—the Elysée, the National Assembly and the Street. Macron has the first two sewn up. His opponents on the hard left and hard right hope to mobilise the last against him.
This is unlikely and the first mobilisations against his reform have been poorly attended. Macron has used the mechanism of “ordonnances”—decrees—which put forward legal changes on the President’s initiative rather than the parliamentary route of first-second-third readings.
He is determined to take the high wire and get his reforms in early so they can have the hoped-for impact and bring the kind of kinetic energy and reputation as a global performer that Britain enjoyed after the Thatcher years, or Germany won thanks to Schröder’s reforms.