Gavin Mortimer Gavin Mortimer

France is fracturing but Macron remains in denial | 17 October 2018

As chalices go, few are as poisoned as the one Emmanuel Macron has just handed Christophe Castaner. Minister of the interior is one of the most challenging posts in government. The former Socialist MP has cultivated an image over the years of a political tough guy, in contrast to his predecessor, the diminutive Gérard Collomb. But what passes for tough in the National Assembly won’t intimidate the tough guys in France’s inner cities.

During his eighteen months in the post, Collomb was a diligent minister, but in the end the 71-year-old was worn down by the enormity of his task. He parted with a message that should cause his successor a few sleepless nights. 

Explaining that he had toured the inner cities of Marseille, Toulouse and Paris, Collomb said:

“The situation is very difficult and the phrase ‘Reconquering the Republic” is apt because in these districts it’s the law of the strongest that reigns, that of the drug dealers and radical Islamists, which has supplanted the Republic.”

He ended his farewell by expressing his anxiety that if something is not done today then tomorrow France will be faced with “immense problems”. He elaborated on what those problems will be in one of his last interviews, with the weekly magazine L’Express. Asked if he shared the fear of the head of France’s equivalent of MI5 that a civil war was a real risk, Collomb said:

“You always have that risk…it’s not a fantasy, even if I don’t like using the term ‘civil war’.”

The tragedy is that this isn’t a new warning. France was alerted to what Collomb describes as the ‘ghettoïsation‘ of France in 2002 with the publication of the book, ‘The Lost Territories of the Republic: anti-Semitism, racism and sexism in schools’. One of its editors was Barbara Lefebvre who, instead of being acclaimed for her honest investigation, was branded an Islamophobe for daring to speak the unspeakable.

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