France’s PM has announced a six-month suspension of a fuel tax rise which has led to weeks of violent protests.
Edouard Philippe said that people’s anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.
Good work, comrades.
The difficulty for Emmanuel Macron is that this is exactly the kind of capitulation to the street that he has vowed to stop. There will be no change of direction, he repeats to all who will hear, because that would only store up worse problems for the future.
The thing is – and I defy you to show me a British newspaper that makes this distinction – the French public were ready to accept reforms to the labour laws of the sort that traditionally bring the unions onto the streets. In fact, Macron did push through such reforms and the unions did strike, and the public refused to back the strikers. I remember all the complaining about the disruption to SNCF services when I was working in Paris, but the majority knew major reforms are necessary. What they clearly don’t support is their foppish president sacrificing the living standards of ordinary people on the altar of environmental hysteria. Most commentators will say this was a typical French uprising against reform and modernisation – plus ça change – but it wasn’t.
Macron had all the goodwill he could have wished for from a population who wanted to change; instead he chose to hit them hardest on a vanity project. That should be the story here.