I watched Emmanuel Macron’s prime time press conference last night but I wish I hadn’t. It was meant to be Macron’s relaunch of his presidency after a tough period of soaring prices, international and civil disorder, Europe in turmoil and awful polls. I should have known better than to stay up past my usual bedtime. Mr Macron is a president who delights in his own words yet is entirely unaware of his soporific effect on others. These were two and a half hours of my life I will never recover.
This was Macron’s first press conference since 2019 so there was a lot to ask him but the questions were perfunctory and the journalists were accessories. This was Macron en continu, Jupiter hurling thunderbolts of statistics, claims, promises and revelations from the gilded Olympus of the Salle des Fêtes at the Elysée Palace, whose ostentation makes Buckingham Palace seem a slum.
Of course this wasn’t really a press conference. It was theatre. A one-man show where there was no director to tell the principal to shut up. The hacks were decorative and their questions merely a cue for further lengthy exegesis. At no stage did a journalist launch anything resembling a challenge. There are no Laura Kuenssbergs or Andrew Neils in the Elysée press corps.
Equally ornamental, members of his odd new government flanked the stage, feigning rapt attention. Gabriel Attal, the new prime minister, openly gay and at 34 the youngest ever fifth republic premier, had a fabulous hair cut. They were present to nod, sitting at the feet of the president, as disposable as a mouchoir.
Macron was a keen high school drama student – indeed he married his teacher Brigitte. He also projects something of a divine right.