The rentrée politique in France next month promises to be the most exciting in decades as the dynamic superstar president Emmanuel Macron, aged 39¾, embarks on his mission to rescue France from its recent ignominy and restore it to glory. No matter that the polls are showing the shine may already be off this particular golden youth, and that a protest movement abruptly halted his wife, Brigitte, from having a formal First Lady role. President Macron marches on into the new political season, as full of confidence in his own abilities as he has always been.
Many have been the comparisons of Macron to the Sun King, Louis XIV, and even Jupiter, the Roman king of the gods, upon whom Macron models himself. In material ambition, however, Macron’s project sometimes seems closest to that of Louis–Napoléon Bonaparte, who was elected president aged 40, with an enormous mandate — and subsequently installed himself as Emperor Napoleon III in a putsch, before coming unstuck with Germany and ending his days in exile in England. In Surrey, where he is interred in an abbey at the end of the runway in Farnborough, Benedictine monks pray to this day for his eternal soul. His was an era in which great fortunes were made, modern Paris was created, Africa colonised, dissidents hounded, French culture flourished, and the administrative foundation was consolidated for what has to this day survived, after numerous iterations, as the immutable French state.
On such a Napoleonic scale, Macron’s teams of policy wonks have produced policies and plans for reform and change right across the inflated government and paralysed legacy economy, while carving out a new role for France as a global diplomatic, cultural, environmental and military colossus. It seems prima facie impossible, the detail intractable. Macron intends to simultaneously cut taxes and reduce the deficit.