Magazine article The Spectator

Emmanuel Macron: L'anti-Trump

Magazine article The Spectator

Emmanuel Macron: L'anti-Trump

Article excerpt

Can the whizz-kid of French politics win?

If you believe the hype, Emmanuel Macron is l'anti-Trump. He is what the inter-national centre-left, reeling from the shocks of Brexit and the US election and fearful of a victory for Marine Le Pen in France, is crying out for: a politician who can win again. He is only 39 years old, handsome and radical sounding. He's not a career politico; he used to work as a banker for the Rothschilds (every-body loves them). He wears sharp suits and he's written a book called Révolution.

Better still, he has a buzzing movement behind him: his 'En Marche!' (Let's go!) campaign has excited trendy progressives. He is not bogged down with formal connections to the loathed establishment. Surely he could beat Le Pen to the French presidency in the second-round vote on 7 May? Surely?

This week Macron came to London (France's sixth city, in terms of number of French residents). At Methodist Central Hall he addressed a crowd of 3,500 mostly young Londoniens and the atmosphere was almost religious. It felt like a spiritual revival seminar for depressed Europhiles. Nick Clegg sat in the front row, looking for inspiration. Behind him lots of beautiful and well-dressed French millennials beamed at each other and chanted 'Macron! Macron!' Madonna's 'Like a Prayer' was played. On a screen above the stage, pink messages flashed up saying 'Partagez' (Share) and 'Adhérents' (Members).

Macron began by mentioning Boris Johnson and the crowd booed and whistled at the mayor turned Brexiteer. 'Never boo! Leave that to those who have no hope and no plans! We don't boo,' he said, and the crowd clapped and cheered.

Is Macron Europe's Obama, or France's belated answer to Tony Blair? He certainly speaks like a Blair 2.0 -- he starts his English sentences with a pally 'Look...'. He has charisma and he stares at people intensely when he shakes their hands.

Macron may be cheesy, but he excites progressives precisely because he is unapologetic about his progressivism. He thinks, for instance, that David Cameron lost the referendum because he was not 'aggressive' enough. 'I respect him and his team,' he said at a press conference on Tuesday, 'but they didn't defend the Remain at all -- they defended a "Yes, but", which is not the best way to win against "No". And at the end of the day they lost... if you are shy you are dead in the current environment.' As for Hillary Clinton, he adds, she lost because her campaign 'was not very clear and I would say not as clear at Bill Clinton's'.

If he becomes France's president, Macron promises to be tough towards Brexit Britain. He insists that the EU's four freedoms (of people, capital, goods and services) cannot be abrogated. He will try to lure UK-based businesses to France by simplifying and liberating French tax and regulatory systems. This threatening talk thrills told-you-so Remainers. 'The execution of the Brexit has to be compliant with our interests and the European interests. On financial passports, for instance, there is no access to the single market without contribution.' Phwoar! Take that, Dan Hannan!

'What is fascinating,' he says, 'is that those who should be liberal say now it's impossible to protect and defend a liberal approach.' He insists he is 'proud' to be pro-liberalisation, pro-welfare and pro-globalisation. …

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