Liberté, égalité, fraternité

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Much has been made of Emmanuel Macron’s recent impact on France’s mainstream political spectrum and, with only a week to go before their presidential election, I find it incredible to consider that his ‘En Marche!’ (Forward!) party is barely a year old. And this, an election that is highly likely to determine the future of Europe as much as France’s internal democracy.

At only 39 years of age, comparisons have been drawn between Macron and both Canada’s charismatic Justin Trudeau and our very own Tony Blair, in his 90s ‘Cool Britannia’ prime. Both positioned themselves in the centre-ground but neither had to contend with an entrenched, organised and widely supported far-right movement, led by an equally media-savvy spectre, Marine Le Pen. Thankfully, by contrast, Nigel Farage is but a boy. Nor can 2015 Canada or 1997 Britain be likened to today’s France, with its bubbling racial tensions, underlying populism, active terrorism and visible social ills.

Besides being young, handsome and well-dressed, the one common-thread through all is their outspoken support of ethnic and cultural diversity and the adoption of a positive ethos towards immigration. Emmanuel Macron acts as the only electable candidate who seeks to forward an inclusive social model where Arab & Muslim minorities are integrated and supported within society. He accepts and confronts France’s colonial past and seeks to integrate it into the country’s future. Macron has been right to lift the lid on France’s history in central & northern Africa, to accept the right of these peoples to consider themselves French, and it’s going to be intriguing to see his country’s reaction to this.

Also, catching my eye for not dissimilar reasons, is the hard-left car factory worker, Phillipe Poutou. In the televised debate, Poutou, who has taken five weeks off work to stand in the election, showed a very healthy French level of disrespect for those he regards as corrupt and unworthy of office: calling them by their surnames, continually turning his back on them and refusing to have his picture taken with them, he tore a strip off both Le Pen and Francois Fillou demanding they immediately answer the alleged charges made against them. Allez le bleu!

PS Well. Now you didn’t expect that, did you? Obviously spurred on by my French musings and, not one to be left behind, Mrs May has just announced her desire to ask the Government for the opportunity of redressing the massive imbalance of her current huge majority. Or something like that.

I’ve actually praised Theresa May’s workmanlike approach to her position and whole-heartedly agreed with her decision not to call a ‘snap’ general election as we need to focus on the larger task ahead. Never say never has never seemed more appropriate where this woman is concerned, and Maggie-the-mentor must be spinning in her grave at the number of U-turns she appears capable of making.

Cynical, politically opportunistic and self-serving this has precious little to do with strengthening her hand re Brexit as there is no viable opposition to her plans, other than in her own party. Securing her position at No 10 until 2022 will be the outcome, with the subsequent majority ensuring a free-hand legislatively. Labour will be decimated and Jeremy Corbyn is a dead-man-walking. Tim Farron’s Liberals will improve upon their numbers but remain inconsequential. UKIP will die the death of a thousand cuts and many of their candidates will lose their deposit. Nigel will return as leader. Again. North of the border, the battle of the pins will be played out on a pro/anti Brexit agenda (aka pro/anti referendum) and Scotland will vote down the union. Just you watch.

My, how Europe must be missing our mature and informed contribution.