Tony Blair believes the way forward for Britain is to seek guidance from Emmanuel Macron. The former British prime minister has a reputation for outlandish claims but the suggestion that the United Kingdom can benefit from pearls of wisdom proffered by the most divisive president in the history of the Fifth Republic is baffling even by Blair’s standards.
According to Politico, Blair will host a Future of Britain conference on June 30, which is a collaboration between his eponymous Institute and the Britain Project, a centrist think tank that was established in the wake of the 2019 general election and which is described by Politico as the ‘British version of Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche’.
The objective of the conference, which will be hosted by former BBC broadcasters Jon Sopel and Emily Maitlis, is a progressive brainstorm to find solutions to the challenges of climate change, the economy and technology. If all goes well it could lead to the creation of a new political party.
Those on the Britain Project’s advisory board include former Conservative ministers Rory Stewart and David Gauke, as well as ex-Labour MPs Angela Smith and Luciana Berger. All apparently take their ‘inspiration’ from Macron and the organisers are ‘desperate to get him on the programme somehow’.
If true, it reveals an alarming misreading of the political landscape in France. Macron is a deeply unpopular figure with the electorate, 28 per cent of whom did not cast a vote in the second round run off between the president and his challenger, Marine Le Pen. Of those that did vote, 38 per cent went for Macron (a 5 per cent drop on 2017) and 27 per cent for Le Pen, a weak adversary who lacks political convictions. Mind you, so does Macron. According to Vincent Martigny, author and professor of political science at Nice university, Macron has few strong political beliefs other than support for the EU and techno-liberalism. ‘But the secret of his longevity, and the explanation of his re-election can be found above all else in his great ideological plasticity,’ explains Martigny. ‘His dogma evolves with the circumstances.’
Martigny is confident that ‘Macronism’ won’t endure past 2027, when its founder will be unable to stand for re-election. It will be consigned to history but what France will resemble after five more years of ‘Monsieur En Meme Temps’ (Mr at the same time) is anyone’s guess.
His first term in office was marked by a series of crises, from the Yellow Vests to the general transport strikes to rocketing crime to Covid. Macron mismanaged them all, alienating and angering great swathes of the population with a series of crass and arrogant comments; calling people ‘slackers’ and ‘nothing’, and boasting that you want to ‘piss them off’ is hardly inspirational. He’s been scarcely more diplomatic on the international stage, falling out with a diverse range of countries, from Britain to Algeria to Poland to Brazil.
Macron starts his second term with France in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis and inflation running at an annual 4.5 per cent; that can’t be laid at his door but Macron has done nothing to rein in France’s national debt in the last five years, which is now at 112 per cent of GDP, way above the euro zone’s 95 per cent.
But before he launches any new reforms Macron has first to win a majority in next month’s legislative elections. Opinion polls aren’t encouraging for the president, who recently rebaptised his En Marche party ‘Renaissance’. ‘Apathy’ and ‘indifference’ are the words pollsters hear most frequently when they canvas the public about their president. He was re-elected last month only because the French couldn’t stomach the prospect of Le Pen in the Elysée.
What political vision has Macron to offer Britain? He knows how to win elections, but so does Boris Johnson; unfortunately neither knows how to lead. They just enjoy the power and the status conferred by the office.
Inviting the French president to speak at next month’s conference would achieve nothing other than to create a few headlines. The future of Britain is worrying enough without it involving Macron.