Jonathan Miller

‘McKinseygate’ won’t bring down Macron

France's president is plodding towards re-election

'McKinseygate' won't bring down Macron
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We are in the final stretch before the first round of voting in the French presidential election on 10 April and Macron is still cruising to victory — though perhaps not quite as serenely as he had hoped.

‘McKinseygate’ is the latest scandal that probably won’t change much. Six million fonctionnaires being apparently insufficient to govern France, it transpires that Macron’s government has paid €2.4 billion (£2 billion) to consultants including McKinsey mainly to tell it what to do about Covid. Doubtless a mere bagatelle when the bill is finally totalled for the plague, but embarrassing.

As anyone familiar with McKinsey could have predicted, the laptop geniuses turned France into an absurdist dystopia — a society in which it was necessary to fill out a form to take the dog for a walk, legal to buy liquor, a crime to buy clothes for children.

Le Monde reports numerous links between the president and McKinsey, whose executives and alumni played a role in the campaign of candidate Macron in 2017, including Karim Tadjeddine (current head of the 'public sector' branch of the firm), Eric Hazan (a leader of the digital branch) and Guillaume de Ranieri (head of aerospace and defence). Inquiring journalists are told to take up the matter with ministers.

So that’s McKinseygate — also known as Macronskygate. With Macron, however, one scandal merely conceals another. Macron’s recent obligatory declaration of patrimony is another. He risibly claims to have a net worth of €500,000 (£420,000), less than his rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who unlike Macron, never worked at Rothschild. A contemporary estimates Macron was paid several million at Rothschild, where he stopped off on his short march to the presidency. Where all of these emoluments are now is completely invisible. Did he spend the money? Or has he hidden it?

There’s talk of offshoring – banks are good at this. Complex vehicles. Impenetrable fiscal niches. But the story is completely ignored by much of the French and the international media.

Macron has faced very little proper scrutiny as he endeavours to extend his lease on the Élysée. He might have been questioned about McKinsey, patrimony, his first five years in the Élysée, a record of riots on the streets, widespread criminal disorder in cities, defeat in Mali, an untidy Brexit agreement containing seeds for future discord and most recently, his failed diplomacy over Ukraine, in which 17 phone calls and grovelling meetings with Putin produced nothing.

The war is a good alibi for absence, nevertheless. The media campaign to reelect the president is naked and somewhat reflects that of establishment media in America to elect Joe Biden and dump Trump.

The equivalent of Trump in France is the populist Eric Zemmour, relentlessly demonised for three months, his enormous rallies ignored. Pollsters admit they don’t know how to count his voters, but their polls are used anyway to undermine him. I’ve a pal in a private social network group who tells me that they know their panels and weighting are off, because they have entered unknown territory with no historical data.

The stronger his campaign becomes, the more he is attacked as a racist. His voters are adamant that the election is being stolen. But he has to accept some of the blame. He has defined his campaign around immigration, his project is ‘remigration’ and his portmanteau political movement is about what it says on the tin, ‘Reconquête.’ The premise is to take back what is lost is an exact analogue of Trump’s Make America Great Again, but hasn’t landed as Zemmour might have hoped. If Zemmour and his campaign are to turn their insurrection into an enduring political movement, they will have to do better.

Marine Le Pen has had a charmed campaign by comparison, although it’s a struggle to understand her project. She has over the years swerved away from nativism and tried to drag her Rassemblement National to more central territory. In doing so, however, she has alienated many of her supporters while failing to convince the undecided. With the nationalism suppressed we are left with just another left-wing Colbertist.

Her ascent in polls is baffling. She talks of issues that can seem trivial, such as privatising the autoroutes. I’ve never heard this raised as an issue by a voter but perhaps she has unlocked a magical political formula. She is quite dull. Maybe it’s the north that helps her. Down here in Occitanie, traditional National Front territory, it’s rather hard to find many with faith in her.

The only other candidate of serious interest is Jeremy Corbyn’s friend Jean-Luc Mélenchon who is red in tooth and claw. He has a temper but he is not stupid. He is somewhat cultivée, as they say here, having read the great books. He is positioning himself as the candidate of the unified left, and has lately garnered improving poll ratings. But since the left is at war with itself and not even his own militants like him, it’s probably wise to ignore those predicting he might make a late charge into the second round.

It’s been enjoyable watching the official Socialist Party candidate, the awful mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, at two per cent in the polls, as the red-green alliance finds no fertile soil.

It’s also been entertaining watching the final meltdown of the Républicains. Not even former Républicain president Nicolas Sarkozy is going to vote for Valerie Pécresse, the Île de France groupthinking Énarque who is the party’s embarrassingly inept official candidate.

So the operating assumption must be that we are heading inevitably into a replay of 2017, with Macron versus Le Pen in round two, Macron the winner, albeit with a smaller margin than last time, when he crushed her 66 per cent to 34 per cent. We can also predict that Zemmour will do better than expected and abstention rates will be high.

The journalists covering this election are becoming increasingly desperate (present company included) trying to find elements of drama. It’s tempting to spin out various fanciful scenarios in which Macron could lose. But the truth is that Macron is plodding towards re-election.

Written byJonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller, who lives in Montpellier, is the author of ‘France, a Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ (Gibson Square). His Twitter handle is: @lefoudubaron

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