Crunch time approaches for Macron

News in from France:

When centrist Emmanuel Macron was swept to power in presidential elections last May, his big platform was a reform of France’s rigid labour laws.

Let’s be honest, the adulation received by Macron from politicians and journalists across Europe when he won the presidency was based on his being a nice looking chap who wasn’t that nasty Le Pen woman. Establishment elites aren’t interested in actual policies, save for those which maintain the status quo and their own cushy positions. Note that those who squealed hysterically like teenage girls at a pop concert have gone awfully quiet recently.

But his popularity has since waned, and the measures to be revealed on Thursday will be a big test for his presidency.

He is facing mass protests next month, although one of the biggest unions has decided it will not take part.

Jean-Claude Mailly argued that the Macron team had backed away from “ultraliberal” reforms, justifying his union’s decision not to take part in a day of street demonstrations on 12 September.

What’s French for deja-vu?

Mr Macron wants to free up the French economy by making it easier for employers to hire and fire staff, and negotiate working conditions.

An earlier attempt to modernise France’s labour laws by François Hollande’s Socialist government largely failed in the face of left-wing opposition. However, Mr Macron has already won parliamentary backing to push these reforms through by decree.

I’m actually hoping he succeeds. Since his election I’ve warmed to Macron, mainly because he pissed off a lot of the wet lefties outside of France by doing things differently, e.g. getting on with Donald Trump and poking Merkel in the eye. He is also upsetting people in the EU, which is always a good thing in my book. But how he will hold up once the protests start and the notoriously fickle French population withdraws its support I don’t know.

President Macron has pledged to reduce unemployment from 9.5% of the workforce now to 7% by 2022. But last week, on a visit to Romania, he complained that France was not a “reformable country… because French men and women hate reform”.

And he was absolutely right. By their own admission the French are very conservative and resistant to any kind of change. Even the ones who know reforms are necessary don’t actually want to see them brought about, and would rather kick the can down the road. When Macron was elected a lot of people said “it’s now or never”, but the thing with France is it’s been like that for quite some time. The French say they want to change, but reject any change that’s proposed.

A separate poll on Wednesday showed that while nine out of 10 French people agreed that their country’s labour code had to be reformed, 60% were worried about the Macron plan.

See what I mean? What odds on Macron succeeding?

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16 thoughts on “Crunch time approaches for Macron

  1. I get the feeling that there may be less sympathy for disruptive strikes this time around. Not saying they won’t happen, but it looks to me like it will only be Melanchon and the CGT who will be doing the protesting and everyone knows the CGT protests everything in September because they want a couple more weeks holiday.

    So I expect strikes and marches but possibly not blockades of refineries, operation escargot etc.

    I think(hope/expect) Macron is smart enough to have done some planning for how to stop this affecting the majority of France and how to keep the public on his side. It may not work, the French are bolshie sorts, but he has the examples of Sarko and Hollande to show him what NOT to do

  2. I get the feeling that there may be less sympathy for disruptive strikes this time around.

    That’s the thing with the French, though. They say they want reforms, they vote in the reformist candidate, they support the plan. Then the CGT go on strike with their bat-shit insane Communist slogans, the papers run an opinion poll, and they find 50% think more dialogue is required, 30% back the strikes, and 20% oppose them. It’s absolutely confounding. Look here, for example:

    The survey carried out on Thursday and Friday showed that 54 percent of French people interviewed were against the protests. The same number backed the protests in May. Only 45 percent currently support the protest movement, BVA said.
    The poll showed 29 percent wanted the government to maintain the bill, which aims to make hiring and firing easier, in an attempt to get stubbornly high unemployment falling, with presidential elections a year away. The same percentage want the bill withdrawn, while 41 percent want a negotiated solution.

    Unless 70% or more of the country are four-square behind Macron’s reforms, forget it.

  3. Unless 70% or more of the country are four-square behind Macron’s reforms, forget it.

    Yeah. Normally I’d say you are right. My default prediction for the progress of any French reforms is pretty much the same as yours.
    1) Government comes up with some reforms.
    2) Unions go on strike to complain
    3) Population gets pissed off at both sides
    4) Government waters down reforms to where they are pointless

    The thing is that everyone in France knows how this works and so I suspect there’s a lot of resignation. However I don’t think I’ve ever seen 90% polls saying change has to happen before. Hence it could well be that enough of the population (maybe not 70% but perhaps 60%) will back the government not the protestors this time around that the government doesn’t have to cave in – or at least not cave in as much as usual.

    I’m not totally optimistic you understand, France today is not the UK in 1977, but I think it’s closer to that position than ever before. I’m certainly not seeing/hearing quite the same “THIS REFORMS CANNOT STAND” language that I have seen previously

  4. Anyway, unlike you, I’ll be out of France a week from today as long as the air traffic controllers don’t jump the gun and go on strike before the 11th so all this is rather more academic for me. I just get to watch and laugh instead of suffer

  5. I’m not totally optimistic you understand, France today is not the UK in 1977, but I think it’s closer to that position than ever before.

    Yeah, I think you’re right.

    I’ll be out of France a week from today as long as the air traffic controllers don’t jump the gun and go on strike before the 11th so all this is rather more academic for me.

    Nice! Are you leaving for good?

  6. But how he will hold up once the protests start and the notoriously fickle French population withdraws its support I don’t know.

    I think you do, really. As you say the recent experiences of Sarko & Holland provide more than a clue.

    After all, if there was any, actual positive change in France, the French would have less to complain about. And that would never do.

  7. Maybe Macron shpould learn from Maggie and gut the unions first. Weaken your opposition before you go to war with them. Maggie stockpiled coal before the mine closures – she was no fool. Macron should think of this in more military terms.

  8. I haven’t really followed him that much since the election and the only time I have seen him pop up is to do with him shitting himself on election promises, being greenish and having a bigger make up bill than Le Pen. Just another one of the many childless leaders that seem to be the vogue, ironically leading a nation with a demographic crisis, too girly to implement any badly needed structural reforms and probably a mummy’s boys with notions of omnipotence.

    More interested in where Francis is going next.

  9. I’ll be heading back to Japan where I’ll be about 4km from one of the Patriot(?) missile defenses. Probably back in Europe November/December

  10. Congrats on your headline. “Crunch time”, “Macron” – he is rather a macaroon isn’t he?

  11. Trade union membership in France is about 8%. So 3 x nothing basically, about the lowest in Europe and mostly funded by the state. The problem is that any law they pass is considered an “aquis” and can’t be changed without a revolution.

  12. Looks like he’s missed on his Nobel Peace Prize. They should have given it to him on Election Day before reality set in

  13. By their own admission the French are very conservative and resistant to any kind of change. Even the ones who know reforms are necessary don’t actually want to see them brought about, and would rather kick the can down the road. When Macron was elected a lot of people said “it’s now or never”, but the thing with France is it’s been like that for quite some time. The French say they want to change, but reject any change that’s proposed.

    Is this why they have so many revolutions? Why they’re on their fifth constitution? (Sixth if you count Maastricht.)

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