The Corner


Merci, Monsieur le Président

French president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace in Paris (Philippe Wojazer / Reuters)

As my colleagues like to point out, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, is not a conservative. Nevertheless, he does things that ought to earn the approval — and even the gratitude — of conservatives. Did you note two items in recent days?

Here is a report from the BBC:

France’s National Assembly has overwhelmingly backed President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial rail reforms.

In a blow to the country’s unions, French MPs voted 452 to 80 in favour of the bill overhauling the country’s state rail company SNCF.

The bill marks the biggest change to the company since rail nationalisation in the 1930s.

Rail reform is a key plank in Mr Macron’s efforts to change the economy.

This was an incredibly difficult, and nervy, undertaking. In The Spectator, Jonathan Miller wrote a piece under the heading “Macron’s defeat of the railway unions is as historic as Thatcher’s victory over Scargill.” (Arthur Scargill, you recall, was the boss of the British mineworkers.)

In other news, Macron was attending a ceremony related to World War II. A teenager said to him, “Ça va, Manu?” (Macron’s nickname). Macron rebuked him, reminding the boy that it was a solemn occasion and saying that he should address him as “monsieur le président de la République” or (simply) “monsieur.”

The poor boy apologized, saying, “Sorry, monsieur le président.” (To read a news story, go here.)

Many people thought that Macron was acting high and mighty. Others might think he was acting like an adult, something odd in our times. What Macron did was not conservative in a present-politics sense, but it was very conservative in an older, and timeless, sense.

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