There has never been a more Parisian government than the one selected by Emmanuel Macron last week. Ten of its 15 ministers come from the capital, despite the fact that the Greater Paris region represents 18 per cent of the population.
New prime minister, Gabriel Attal, is a Parisian, the MP for a district in the south of the city. I was one of his constituents for a number of years; he did a decent job and, during political campaigning, I sometimes took a leaflet from one of his minions. They were all very much like Attal: same age, same breeding, same self-assurance.
I’m no longer a Parisian. Last year I moved to the provinces, to a quiet corner of Burgundy. It is only an hour by train to Paris so it is not La France Profonde; rather, it is La France Périphérique, a term coined by Christophe Guilluy in his 2014 book of that title. He described Peripheral France as home to the white working-class, many of whom have moved from the cities to the nearby countryside. A minority did so out of their own free will; but many were forced because they could no longer afford to live in the ‘globalised and gentrified’ city. This has bred a resentment against the ruling elite who, states Guilluy, ‘have still not grasped the ideological and cultural gulf that now separates them from the most modest classes’.
Does Attal and his nine Parisian ministers understand the extent of this chasm? Some provincial mayors fear they don’t. In response to the nomination of the new government, they published an open letter in which they described the provinces as the ‘beating heart of France’.