John Keiger

John Keiger

Professor John Keiger is the former research director of the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge.

Can ‘mini Macron’ rescue France’s president?

France’s Emmanuel Macron, the Fifth Republic’s youngest president, has just appointed its youngest prime minister, 34-year-old Gabriel Attal. The former socialist turned 2017 Macronista campaigner has had a meteoric rise through government ranks to education minister only six months ago. Attal’s remarkable communication skills, ability to think on his feet and interpret what voters wish to hear

The French elite have realised that Marine Le Pen might win

You can tell that French elections are in the air because legal proceedings are being taken against a leading figure of the French right. So it was with François Fillon of the Républicain party, a key contender in the 2017 presidential elections, whose hopes of winning were dashed during the campaign by legal investigation into

Could the world go to war again?

Armistice Day is an appropriate moment to reflect on why democracies triumphed in the two world wars that blighted the twentieth century. The simple answer is because – however much they hesitated – they believed in what they stood for and were able to will their victory. As the French philosopher, future Resistance member and

Why is France so fascinated by the royals?

As King Charles’ state visit to France begins, it is clear that France is not as republican as it claims. The death of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022 gave way to an outpouring of French national grief. Speaking for his people, President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: ‘Her death leaves us with a sense of emptiness’.

How Africa fell out of love with France

On Wednesday last week, a new Gabonese military junta installed itself, having ousted President Ali Bongo, whose family have ruled the country since 1967. Just two days earlier, the French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech to his ambassadors in which he spoke of an ‘epidemic of putschs’ in what was formerly France’s greatest sphere

There is not much for Macron to celebrate on this Bastille Day

In January this year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak outlined his five priorities for Britain against a hazy timetable. Meanwhile in France, after months of parliamentary opposition, strikes and demonstrations against his pension reforms, President Macron’s legislation gained assent by a constitutional sleight of hand. To appease the country’s heightened state of tension in May, Macron

The French riots threaten the state’s very existence

How dangerous are riots to the very existence of the French state? Most commentators avoid the question and concentrate on causes. The more whimsical attribute cause to that clichéd French historical reflex of insurrection; the sociologists to poverty and discrimination in the banlieues (suburbs); the far-left to French institutional racism and right-wing policies; conservative politicians to

Will Macron be forced to break his pledge and raise taxes?

The inevitable is at last beginning to dawn on Emmanuel Macron. The extravagant spending spree initiated after the violent and year-long 2018 ‘gilets jaunes’ protests will have to be reversed. With the coffers empty, France is not only at the mercy of international finance, she is now highly vulnerable to the next social or political

Did France invent cricket?

As the First Ashes Test begins at Edgbaston it is fitting to recall England’s oldest cricket adversary: France. The Marylebone Cricket Club’s (MCC) first ever international tour was scheduled for France in the summer of 1789. Owing to local difficulties the tour did not go ahead. The match was eventually rescheduled for the bicentennial of

How Keir Starmer could walk into the EU’s trap

Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour front bench are increasingly candid about their plans to ‘recalibrate’ Britain’s relationship with the EU within 18 months of entering Downing Street. Trade barriers with the EU would be lowered, regular EU-UK summits would be held at permanent official and ministerial level, a return to the Dublin Agreement on

Macron’s muddled foreign policy

Even the French reports of President Macron’s state visit to China last week were unflattering. The highly choreographed ceremonies with Xi Jinping – redolent of foreign emissaries paying homage to Chinese emperors – produced nothing on Ukraine, nothing on Taiwan. The only tangible outcome was Beijing graciously extending for another four years the loan of two

Macron’s France is at a turning point

France is confronted by a serious social crisis, morphing into a grave political crisis, which could become a regime crisis.   To be fair, political instability did not begin with Emmanuel Macron. It has been growing since 2000 when the presidential mandate was cut from seven to five years, rendering it coterminous with parliamentary elections and reducing

Could the markets force Macron to back down on pension reforms?

Is Emmanuel Macron reaching his Liz Truss moment when financial markets finally determine his future? On 20 March Moody’s ratings agency strode into France’s explosive pensions reform turmoil. While keeping France’s rating at Aa2 ‘stable’ it nevertheless warned that President Macron’s constitutional sleight of hand denying the National Assembly a vote on the bill risked undermining

Is Macron dreaming of Aukus becoming Fraukus?

When silhouetted against the symbolism – as French media proudly insist – of King Charles choosing France for his first state visit at month’s end, this weekend is very much an Anglo-French affair. On Friday, Rishi Sunak and seven ministers visited Paris – a first for five frosty years – for a Franco-British summit with

Macron’s France is a tinderbox

On 22 March 1968 the slow burn that would eventually flare into France’s ‘May ‘68’ began. The radical student movement known as ‘22 March’, with Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Dany le Rouge) at its heart, was unaware its actions on this day would lead to riots and the eventual paralysis of the French state after workers joined

Is Macron really saying the France-Afrique is finished?

On 2 March in Gabon, West Africa, President Macron declared that ‘the days of France-Afrique are over’.  Since the early nineteenth century the African continent has emblazoned France’s aspiration to international power status. Like any empire it provided natural resources. It also provided manpower. Unlike other imperial powers with surplus domestic populations to deploy, France’s demography was stagnant

Europe’s centre of gravity is shifting towards Poland

The President of the United States of America flies into Poland this month. Not to Germany or France or even the UK. There is great symbolism in this gesture, which goes further than Washington merely showing solidarity to the front-line states in Russia’s war against Ukraine. It is emblematic of a trend which has seen

What Germany can learn from Japan about the new world order

The end of the second world war saw the defeated aggressors Germany and Japan accept moral capitulation and begin new international lives as liberal democratic and largely pacifist states bent on cooperation not coercion. But over the last few years an increasingly unsettled international order has emerged to test the pacifism of the fourth and

Britain’s Ukraine strategy could reap dividends for Brexit

Ever since at least the French revolution it has been in Britain’s strategic interest to ensure no single power or group of powers dominates the continent of Europe. Britain’s motives were always military and, as an international trading nation, commercial. Today the Russian invasion of Ukraine presents the UK with a strategic opportunity to stymie