Gavin Mortimer Gavin Mortimer

Is Emmanuel Macron the doomed heir to Blair?

I have a friend who lost three members of his family when an Islamic extremist drove a truck down the Promenade des Anglais in Nice on Bastille Day. When we saw each other at Christmas he said he had yet to decide whether to cast his vote for François Fillon or Marine Le Pen in the election, the two presidential candidates he considered best placed to restore law and order to France. When I asked what he thought of Emmanuel Macron he laughed. It was a cold contemptuous laugh.

In the weeks since, I’ve conducted my ‘Macron Test’ on a number of occasions, throwing his name into the conversation with my French friends to gauge their reaction. Laughter is the recurring theme. ‘Macron!’ exclaimed one on Sunday, as we returned on the Eurostar to Paris after watching the rugby at Twickenham. ‘All style and no substance. He’s our Tony Blair’.

It’s a good comparison because there are striking similarities between the 39-year-old Macron, and Blair, four years older when elected Prime Minister in 1997: young, successful, dynamic and obsessed with their image. Like Blair, Macron promises to lead his country into a prosperous new era with his progressive En Marche! [Let’s Go!] party. He boasts that he’s a moderniser, an innovator, a globalist and he’s going to make France great again. He’s not as talkative when it comes to Islamic extremism, immigration and inner-city lawlessness.

Macron was at it again on Monday, turning up unannounced at a Parisian theatre where his supporters had gathered for a convention. He soon had them rolling in the aisles with a series of witty one-liners and the press coverage the following day was suitably fawning. That’s the key to Emmanuel, as it was with Tony two decades ago. The majority of the media can’t get enough of him, smitten by his intellect, his charm, his openness and his boyish good looks.

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