France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, has been putting together his government, drawing on figures from the right, left and center as well as a handful who have never been actively involved in politics before. That’s led at least one commentator to hail him as ‘resolutely pro-European’ ,‘liberal’ and ‘post-partisan’, a revealing use of the last term in that it classes being ‘liberal’ (a flexible adjective these days) and ’pro-European’ as positions that somehow transcend grubby ‘partisan’ politics. They don’t, but the belief that they do lies at the heart of the technocratic (and post-democratic) project that is the EU.
And then there’s this (from the Guardian):
One of Macron’s biggest coups was the appointment of the environmentalist and former TV personality, Nicolas Hulot, to head a broad new environment ministry – the second most important position in government.
Hulot, from whom France will soon need to take a holiday (I’m sorry, couldn’t resist) is described, rather ambitiously, in this Reuters piece as being both a “pragmatist” and “critical of nuclear energy”.
In an interview with Liberation newspaper last month, Hulot said one of France’s main challenges will be to reposition EDF on a path that is compatible with a transition from dependence on nuclear power toward the use of more renewables.
“While elsewhere the energy transition accelerates, EDF gets closer to Areva, overinvests in costly nuclear projects like Hinkley Point, and does not invest enough in renewables,” he told the paper.
Asked by Le Parisien newspaper in March whether France should stop using nuclear energy, he said: “That is a medium-term target”. ”As renewable energy becomes more and more competitive, the nuclear industry business model belongs to the past,” he said.
There’s been a lot lately about how Macron’s election will bring France closer to Germany. Imitating Merkel’s ruinously expensive energy policy (which included a panic-stricken abandonment of nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster) needs to be one area where France maintains la différence.
Meanwhile in the Financial Times Simon Kuper has written a brilliant, perceptive and entertainingly waspish profile of France’s new president, who seems to possess the high intelligence, emotional detachment, charm and manipulative skills characteristic of both sociopaths and the more successful politicians (not mutually exclusive categories).
The key to Macron is that he is what the French call a grand séducteur. He quickly learnt that his charm could get him whatever he wanted. Almost every schoolboy fantasises about seducing his sexy high-school teacher. Macron did, even after Brigitte initially turned him down.
He also got used early to being the smartest person in the room. That doesn’t mean he has an original intellectual mind. He twice failed the entrance exams for the Ecole Normale Supérieure, France’s most cerebral “grande école”. But he’s a polymath who quickly absorbs everything from Rossini’s operas to Hegel. His father, a neurologist, had applied his brain more discreetly: his most cited academic article is on sneezing in cats. However, Macron’s charm required larger outlets. After writing his master’s thesis on Machiavelli, he got rich fast as a banker, then absorbed enough economics to be named finance minister.
Like his political ancestor Tony Blair, who walked into Downing Street 20 years ago this month, Macron is an actor at heart. (He met Brigitte when she taught him drama.) Watch the online video in which a journalist hands him a copy of Molière’s play The Misanthrope, a favourite of Macron’s, and suggests he mug up the opening scene so they can perform it together in a week. No, replies Macron, let’s do it right now. And he does, from memory…
He can perform in any register: when his political ally Corinne Erhel dies suddenly, aged 50, days before the election, he chokes up during a beautiful speech to his campaign team. You want to applaud…
His long, lone walk to the Louvre stage on the night he became president expresses a truth: Macron walks alone. Almost uniquely in modern western democratic history, he has won power without joining a party. He doesn’t seek enduring allies. Instead he seduces useful people, then drops and humiliates them.
Read the whole thing.