Gavin Mortimer Gavin Mortimer

The slow death of Macron’s political dream

French president Emmanuel Macron (Credit: Getty images)

Where did it all go wrong for Emmanuel Macron? In his New Year’s Eve address of 2022, France’s president called on his people to demonstrate ‘unity, boldness and collective ambition’ in the year ahead. There would be challenges, he acknowledged, referencing the impending pension reform, but the president expressed his optimism that together they could ‘strengthen our independence, our greatness of spirit’ and build a ‘stronger, fairer France’. 

We can all dream. Macron’s 2023 has been a nightmare, his ‘annus horribilis’, as France has staggered from one disaster to another. Riots, strikes, Islamist attacks, far-right demos, rocketing crime, soaring drug cartel murders, out of control immigration and crises in education, health, housing and public transport.  

Macron’s 2023 has been a nightmare, his ‘annus horribilis’, as France has staggered from one disaster to another

Then to cap it off, at the start of this week the Bank of France lowered its growth forecast for the country’s economy for 2023 from 0.9 per cent to 0.8 per cent. Admittedly, France’s central bank did predict the economy will accelerate up to 2026 but perhaps – like its president – it can only talk a good game these days. 

What France is experiencing is the slow death of Macronism, just as a generation ago Blairism expired before the eyes of the British. Like Blair, Macron was young, dynamic and full of optimism when he came to power; in their victory speeches, 20 years apart, their watchword was ‘new’. 

This was their centrist ‘Third Way’, in Macron’s case navigating a path between the right of Marine Le Pen and the left of Jean-Luc Melenchon. 

From the outset it captured the imagination of a fervent minority, people from Macron’s generation and milieu. Others were more sceptical. In reviewing Macron’s ‘Third Way’, which he set out in his 2016 book, Revolution, the current affairs weekly, Le Point, said his social-liberal philosophy was ‘exciting but still vague…those hoping to discover a detailed political project in Emmanuel Macron’s book will be disappointed…Macron is content to develop a ‘vision, a narrative, a will’.

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