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15th November 2019

Light at the end of the Élysée Palace?

Oscar Tapper defends Macron’s record, exploring the difficulty of being a leader that’s often derided on both sides of the political spectrum
Light at the end of the Élysée Palace?
Photo: Sikarin Thanachaiary @ Wikimedia commons

In the depths of the gold-plated Élysée Palace lies the office of a man who holds the potential to become the dominant figure in European politics.

A President that all those who oppose right wing nationalism and wave the banner of Remain, should unite behind. Emmanuel Macron is lambasted by those on both the left and right.

Yet when we are in the perilous position of having an unenlightened leader in the White House, an ageing Angela Merkel, an unstable Italian government, and the dire plight of British politics, it is right to ignore the overtly politicised discourse and look to Macron as the panacea to such woes.

On the international stage, Macron is the figure with a truly global vision. At the G7 summit in Biarritz, Macron was consistently trying to open dialogue with the leaders of the seven most powerful nations, with the obvious exceptions of China and Russia, on the largest issues we face.

With persistent references to the climate emergency, the slump in capitalism and lack of faith in democratic institutions, it appears that the man who took the office of presidency before his 40th birthday is holding states to account and pushing for cooperation.

Yet many of his critics will hastily point to the domestic agenda as Macron’s hamartia, or fatal flaw. Certainly, Macron has made mistakes. All leaders do. However, the mass unrest in the Gilets Jaunes movement was predominantly in reaction to a policy with good intentions.

The policy of rising fuel taxes to lower consumption and thus reduce carbon emissions seems a sensible proposal, but to the many on lower incomes, this would have drastically increased the cost of living. Their frustration, understandable as it is, eventually led to Macron altering his reform.

However, the most interesting response came from the opposition by left-leaning liberals. Their desire for action on the climate emergency was finally met with signs of progress, yet they still opposed Macron in their masses. It seems that the Gilets Jaunes was a movement divided between the paradox of desiring higher government investment with lower taxes.

France has proved to be a notoriously difficult nation to govern, yet Macron is delivering. In light of the Gilets Jaunes movement and opposition to his pensions reform which aimed to support those who take time off work such as mothers, Macron started a public consultation called the ‘Grand Département’. With an estimated €25bn investment into the French economy it sustained growth at a time when Europe’s traditional powerhouses like Germany are struggling.

By achieving his party En Marche’s manifesto pledge to reach the lowest unemployment rate in a decade, along with the introduction of constitutional reforms – designed to include proportional representation – it is clear that Macron is making his mark domestically.

The gloomy outlook on global politics is entirely justified. However, I feel that Macron provides a figure for those with disdain on the current state of affairs to rally behind. The manner in which he stands up to Trump and initiates action on climate change demonstrates that there could yet be some cause for optimism.


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