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?