Macron V Le Pen

Édouard Philippe’s sudden coming out of the wood and his “will he won’t he” teasing is certainly is one of the interesting early developments of this 2022 Presidential.

He has high popularity ratings (mainly because in France, the president takes most of the flak, but there’s no dying that Philippe’s calm, humble style appeals to people, it certainly contrasts with Macron’s arrogant know-all personality, which could be his downfall this time round - in 2016, when Macron created En Marche and went for it, he was largely an unknown quantity) so it must feel very tempting for Philippe to go for it but for reasons I explained a few days ago I don’t think he’ll run for president. I think he just enjoys making Macron sweat a bit at the minute and rattle his cage (as I wrote, Philippe is bound to feel betrayed by Macron). It is very early days yet of course so who knows, maybe later developments will nudge Philippe towards a candidacy but I wouldn’t put much money on it.

On Inter the other day he was being very normand :grin: in his answers.

He’s certainly been very cagey, I know it’s early days but I wish he would “piss or get off the pot” on this one, we kind of would like to know… It’s a No for me, I don’t think he’ll go for it, 2027 possibly as he’s often talked of or hinted at his ambition to be president, but despite his misgivings about Macron, he won’t want to get in his way IMO and politically that’d be difficult, as even if he runs as the main LR candidate, I can’t see Macron (who will run as an independent candidate then, like last time, I mean unhindered by Primaries) pulling out for him, so that would be a risky strategy for Philippe, he’s much better off waiting for Macron to have retired from top-level French politics, which if he wins next year will be in 2027.

Meanwhile, in the Marine Le Pen’s & the RN’s camp, the serious financial problems that the party has been experiencing for nearly 10 years now are taking their toll.

Campaign costs are starting to be an issue as they have to find the funding for the 4 forthcoming elections, within 15 months (the Régionales and Départementales in June – was to be last month but postponed due to the pandemic –, the Presidentials in spring 2022 and the Législatives in June 2022), starting with the campaign for the Régionales & Départementales held in 2 months’ time.

That is a lot of money to find: €30 millon in the next 15 months (approx. half of that will be for the Presidential campaign), and their revenues are way too low to finance it all. Granted, the £15m spent in the Presidentials will be reimbursed by the State, after a thorough examination of the audit organisation that deals with campaign expenses (the Commission nationale des comptes de campagne et des financements politiques – the CNCCFP) but obviously you have to find the money beforehand, and that’s very tricky now for the RN, they owe a lot (debts of over €24 million), spend far too much, and banks won’t loan them anything (even international ones; they borrowed €9m+ in 2014 from a Kremlin-linked Russian bank, and also from a Cyprus-based Russian organisation, but it didn’t go well as the FN have dragged their feet to reimburse them – the Russians threatened to sue them etc- so those avenues are now firmly closed).

Since 2018, the RN has been struggling to reimburse their massive debt of nearly €25 million and are now seriously struggling (they owe a Russian bank about €9 million, and last year couldn’t even reimburse Jean-Marie’s Le Pen 2017 loan – just over €4m – so J-M Le Pen got that money through legal means and that amount was taken directly from the €5.2m state grant given to the RN each year, as per the rules pertaining to the public funding of political parties)

The RN has had to lay off 20 people of late in their Nanterre headquarters (north-west Paris), out of 50 employees. There’s now talk of a pay freeze and other cost-cutting measures. The RN employees are well paid: on average over €60,000 a year, with the big cheeses salaried by the party (the main administrators, advisers, Marine Le Pen etc.) on double that. Of course, that’s on top of their wages as elected officials for those who are elected officials therefore paid by the French state (they have 15 mayors, about 1,000 municipal & regional councillors and 7 MPs, such as Marine Le Pen). The RN wage bill alone costs the party about €4-€5 million a year (including the hefty social contributions), less now though as they’ve just made about 20 employees redundant.

On top of that, the party’s non-salarial current expenses have trebled since 2015, and are now hovering around the €5 million a year mark (rallies, travel expenses, “frais de bouche” – no tickets restaurants for them I take it –, lawyers’ fees – nearly €1m in 2018 alone – etc.).

In addition, their plush Fort Knox-type HQ has become a millstone, far too costly for them, the rent alone costs them €30,000 a month. Their search for a smaller, cheaper new HQ base has so far drawn a blank (not many landlords are happy to have them as tenants, for a variety of reasons), especially as they strongly prefer a West Paris location, not terribly cheap (they’re looking at relocating to the upmarket 16th arrondissement, or at a pinch the 15th next door, close to the big media HQs which are mostly headquartered there, south of the Eiffel Tower, along the Seine – TF1, France Télévisions, BFMTV, the huge Radio France complex etc.). Security is a concern for them so finding a very secure building is an additional requirement, not easy and not cheap.

Their yearly revenues are only about €7 million, about £1 million a year from contributions from their elected officials, about €300K a year from donations (slightly more in elections years, as the strict laws framing donations to political parties enable them to receive a little more in election years) but the bulk of their income is the money they receive from the French state, just over €5 million a year.


Forgot to say for those who may not know, that French political parties are partly financed by public funds (that’s been the case for about 30 years, with substantial changes along the way), following a formula based on their results in the two main elections (Législatives - MPs - and the Presidentials), basically their number of MPs and the number of votes they got in the first round of the Presidentials, as of 2017 (last Presidential), it’s €1.42 per ballot vote per year + €38,000 per year given to the party for each député or sénateur elected under the banner of that party. Explains for instance why Macron’s party gets about €20 million a year from the state, as they had 308 MPs elected, although 40 have defected since then; Les Républicains get nearly the same, they have much fewer MPs than En Marche but many more sénateurs than Macron’s party only has about 25 sénateurs, the senateurs are much more a product of the “territoires”, the regions, that bit is even enshrined in the constitution, *Le Sénat représente les collectivités territoriales" etc.).

This public funding was gradually introduced from the late 1980s to put a stop to the rampant corruption affecting French politics – donations from lobbies, businesses, kickbacks to parties etc. – and it’s largely worked. A raft of key reforms and laws re the financing of political parties, starting with the Rocard Laws in 1988, have been adopted since then and as a result the legislation on donations and funding are much stricter than before the 1990s (hugely reinforced powers given to investigating judges too in terms of political matters, it’s much better in terms of the independence of the judiciary etc.), pre 1990s there were no rules regarding party financing, and whenever a politico-financial scandal emerged via the media, the judiciary was pressurised into sweeping things under the rug. This free-for-all had largely benefited the main two “sides” (Left and Right) since the early 1970s, namely the Socialist Party and the various mainstream rightwing parties (which, as you will know, often change name in France), notably the Urba scandal and later the Elf Aquitaine scandal, the latter described by The Guardian in 2003 as “probably the biggest political and corporate sleaze scandal to hit a western democracy since the second world war”.

The Elf scandal was a particularly mammoth political scandal that hit France in the early 1990s (and one that would contribute to the passing of much stricter new legislation on a number of related areas, eg rules governing donations to parties, investigative powers etc.), and carried on in the 2000s with the trials that took place in that decade.

The Elf Aquitaine scandal that is also remembered for its many ramifications and juicy sexual developments, notably the Elf Aquitaine manager (and former lingerie model) Christine Deviers-Joncour who was handsomely remunerated by Elf and also to get top socialist politicians in the early 1990s, in particular then Foreign minister Roland Dumas, with whom she was having an affair at the time, to award favours to a French multinational in armament contracts (frigates) with Taiwan.

Deviers-Joncour was dubbed "the Mata-Hari of the Périgord” (she grew up near Sarlat, still lives there) and “The whore of the Republic”, her own words, she did cash on her notoriety, she wrote 7 (!) books on that case and gave plenty of interviews to the media. She explained at the time that she had no choice as she’d been bankrupted by the whole thing. Although she was on over €10,000 a month at Elf, lawyers’ fees, the taxman (redressement fiscal) etc. bled her dry. Who knows…

Investigators know that a lot of money in that scandal vanished abroad, mainly in tax havens. Officially, the financial flux (illegal money) generated in Elf Aquitaine scandal, what the investigators were able to account for, was about €250 million. They estimate though that over €1bn changed hands illegally, either in cash, transfers or in assets (there were many plush properties in France and abroad given, either rented or offered, boats, luxury cars, jewellery etc. - the lot). On top of her regular Elf wage, Deviers-Joncour received huge amounts, to the tune of €20 million but it could be more, as I’ve just written most of the money seems to have gone awol, could be in some tax havens.

She did time in prison for her involvement in that affair (about 3 months), and received a hefty fine (€200K I think) and claims she’s still broke as she still has substantial debts to reimburse (millions of €), only lives off her book royalties and qualifies for CMU coverage.

Interesting article Fred and all.

Yes, I saw those polls knocking about in the French media a few weeks ago, several of them were published circa March 20th.

It was incidentally the same situation (particularly for the 1st round) in the 2011-2012 and 2016-2017 Presidentials, in that 6 months-1 years before these elections she was regularly polling much higher than what she eventually recorded in the 1st round.

For instance in 2016 she was polling between 24 and 33% for the 1st round but registered 21.3% in the end.

Likewise in 2012, she had just taken over the leadership of the party off her father a year before, she was credited with voting intentions of 20-25% six months or so before April 2012 and recorded 17.8%.

I’m not saying it will be the same of course here in the 1st round (times are radicalising and there are always variables; she might also learn from her mistakes during the 2017 campaign) but 12-6 months before the elections she’s usually credited with higher scores than what she actually registers.

Nearer the time, opinion polls become much more realistic, namely closer to the actual result. Wiki usually runs a French & English page on presidential polls, this is the English one for 2017 and it confirms this trend of “inflated” Front National/RN’s scores up to 1 month before the elections (she was on 26-27% as late as mid March 2017) which then become roughly right much closer to the actual voting day.

In the wiki page for instance, you can clearly see that at least 3 opinion pollsters got it right, Harris, IFOP and OpinionWay consistently had her around the 21-22% mark in the fortnight leading to the election.

This could be explained by two interconnected reasons.

In the last straight of the 2017 presidential campaign (so, March-April), she made some howlers that reflected very poorly on her and made her look decidedly “unpresidentiable”.

She particular got horribly muddled up with her economic policies, her EU stance too (eg she wanted to replace with the Euro with “the Franc or the Ecu”, or even with “The Franc and the Ecu” and have them running in parallel, bonkers) etc.
That amateurish back-of-the-envelope-policy-making approach, which produced those unhinged totally unrealistic “Franc” or “Ecu” vague plans, set alarm bells ringing in some quarters of her electorate, it effectively frightened some of the more well-off Over 50s/pensioners in particular who support her but to a point, they’re happy to cast their RN protest vote but they’re not too keen on her jeopardising the economy and by extension their own financial situation. Which isn’t the case of her more disenfranchised blue-collar electorate of the ex industrial heartlands of Northern France (4 of the 6 Rassemblement National MPs, including Marine Le Pen, are from Hauts-de-France constituencies; + 1 serial defector, José Evrard, who was elected MP in the Pas-de-Calais in 2017 but soon after defected to the Les Patriotes party created by Florian Philippot, MLP’s former top spad, and then defected again to the hard right party Debout la France run by the barmy and oft-derided Nicolas Dupont-Aignan).

I’ve got a few rellies like that, well-off pro-ish Marine Le Pen, who suddenly had second thoughts about their vote given her series of nonsensical economy-related statements prior to the 1st round, they could clearly see that she was clueless and that such policies wouldn’t be good for their savings and property portfolio. These pensioners rellies of mine are Eurospectic, anti-immigration etc. but not to the point of sacrificing their own family jewels, so they reluctantly voted for Macron or Fillon. She probably lost a couple of million 1st round votes because of her incoherence, her dire grasp of economic matters and poorly thought-through policies.

The latest polls are interesting Fred. Marine is neck and neck with Macron in the first round with EM taking the run- off by about 55 to 45 approx.
Looks like the same old, same old…

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Let’s hope history repeats itself, as she is not in favour of other nationalities living in France.

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Yes, they are the basically the same as those I mentioned at the beginning of my post, that batch of 3/4 sondages (polls) released circa March 20th.

Both Macron and Le Pen might get those % that are bandied at the mo but it has to be noted that these polls are bound to be flawed compared to polls made nearer the time simply because they only concentrate on 2 candidates, Le Pen and Macron, and ignore the rest of the pack (usually about 10-15 candidates run for the presidency), simply because as of now only a couple of politicians have officially announced that they’ll be running for president, so you could consider that it skews the overall picture.

Furthermore to my penultimate post, Marine Le Pen of course compounded her misery in the between-the-rounds debate with a poor performance vs Macron where she frankly appeared unhinged at times (this bit here will long remain a classic, she really lost it).

She later offered her excuses to her electorate, not really heartfelt ones I think but at that juncture there was a nascent rebellion in her party – which is broadly divided between the pro-Marine Le Pen vs the pro-Marion Maréchal, her niece – for her to clear the decks and make way for Marion Maréchal or some new blood, so she probably felt that she should apologise as a sop to her own party detractors, but of course she was never going to resign, it is such a nice little earner to be leader of the RN + MP, she’s roughly on €200-250,000 a year + all the great perks of course and generous pension package (she gets about €120K as leader of the RN + another €100-150K a year as MP, depending on what she keeps for herself in that generous monthly “flexible allowance” of €5,373 each MP gets (bearing in mind that their additional monthly allowance of 10,581 € is strictly given to them to pay their parliamentary aids, most MPs have 2 or 3, they’re on €30-35K gross a year on average but that depends on experience, and even if they only employ 1 and only use a fraction of that allowance – very possible as that monthly €10,581 doesn’t include the “charges patronales, sociales et fiscales” which are paid by the Parliament –, the rest is now either put back into to the parliament budget or passed on to other MPs belonging to their political group to go towards the remuneration of their parliamentary aid, it’s up to MP how much their pay their parliamentary aid, an MP is both an elected official and an employer).

This was from BFMTV two days ago, interesting stuff imo.

So here are some candidate suggestions contained in an article in yesterday’s FT:

" Among the centre-right politicians pondering a presidential bid in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic are Xavier Bertrand, leader of the northern Hauts-de-France region, who has already declared his intention to run without waiting for a party primary; Valérie Pécresse, leader of the Ile-de-France region around Paris; and Michel Barnier, the EU’s former Brexit negotiator and a former French minister.

Several more are waiting in the wings, including Laurent Wauquiez, the former LR leader who runs the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, and François Baroin, who presides over the association of France’s 35,000 mayors. Even Edouard Philippe, President Emmanuel Macron’s first prime minister and now mayor of Le Havre, has not ruled out a bid, although he is considered loyal to Macron and unlikely to stand unless the president decides not to seek a second term. "

Interesting set of names…comments ?

Totally agree with you, I really hope she doesn’t win next year, she won’t IMO even if we can see that the traditional so-called “Front Républicain” in the 2nd round is weakening, thanks to the likes of Mélenchon for instance who has already said that (just like in 2017) he’d refuse to give a “consigne de vote” (as the expression goes, voting instructions) to his electorate in the 2nd round, thus equating Le Pen to Macron.

I suspect that the RN’s strong stance about immigration is mostly a marketing campaign shtick, just like the Tories’ mantra between 2010 and 2019, this fabled “reduction of the net migration to the tens of thousands”, before of course officially dropping those unrealistic gimmicky targets circa 2018-2019 once Brexit was secure and the deed done.

No targets in the UK with this new Australia-style points system (another gimmick as to all intents and purposes the set of criteria pre-2021 were tantamount to a points system, just like the French situation for TCNs) and the gvt has admitted that net migration numbers won’t be any lower than pre-Brexit levels (averaging about 250K a year since 2010), and could even be higher.

I think more or less the same would happen with the Rassemblement National in office, there would no doubt be a reduction in TCN immigration but no real significant change as like any other Western country, a certain level of immigration is needed in France.

And anyway, let’s not forget that Marine Le Pen would be in a weak governing position as she’d have no majority at all in parliament (no way she’d end up with anywhere near the parliamentary majority – set at 289 MPs + there’s the - less important - Sénat where she’d probably only have a handful of Senators given their election mode, indirect) so whatever the immigration schemes and targets of her gvt, it would largely be academic. There are only so many times you can use the 49-3.

Don’t forget that the UK has just given tens of thousands + of Hong Kong Chinese the right to come and live in the UK.
I wonder how that is going to affect all the other bright minds that BoJo wanted to attract to come, totally forgetting that it is the caring folk and those that do the less attractive jobs that we need to keep us going.

I wish FT journalists had done their homework: François Baroin officially announced 6 months ago that the wouldn’t run for president (Présidentielle 2022 : François Baroin ne sera pas candidat).Shoddy journalism in my books, such a blatant cock-up really undermines whatever else that journalist writes.

I’ve already commented here at length on Xavier Bertrand (centre-right) 2 weeks ago in this post, both in relation to the Hauts-de-France Regionals in 3 months and his presidential chances, as the two are linked. I also mentioned that I’d met him several times in a professional capacity in the 1990s when he was a key deputy the Saint-Quentin municipal team and I was a teacher in the Rotherham LEA and in charge of organising the LEA’s work experience in St-Quentin for 8 comprehensive schools (Rotherham is twinned with St-Quentin).
As I wrote in that post, he was great to deal with in person or on the phone, very helpful, efficient, personable etc. and you easily warmed to him. In a nutshell, he’s centre-right, a seasoned politician (3 times minister under Chirac and Sarkozy) and his humble origins (both parents bank employee), which he often foregrounds, seem to resonate with a lot of people in the centre. Whether he’d win the LR primaries is a different kettle of fish altogether, it depends on a set of variables but I think he’d have a good chance.

He’s labelled centre-right (he’s always been a fierce opponent to the Le Pens, and often has run-ins with her and the RN MPs - alongside 4 others Marine Le Pen is an MP in the Hauts-de-France, the region Bertrand is the president of) but he will certainly beef up his platform (more law & order pronouncements etc.) as France had drifted to the Right since Hollande and indeed he has already started to appear tough in interviews. There is also for him the imperious necessity to differentiate himself from centre-right Macron and his manifesto, so expect a ratcheting up of rhetoric from all components of the centre-right and mainstream right.

Bertrand, the “humble provincial who understands the grassroots as he is close to those left behind by nasty Paris” will naturally strongly play the “anti-Macronist Parisianist centralism” card and has, both in the media and in his pre-manifesto, started to stress this, saying that he wants to “instaurer une République des territoires”, some less centralism (which translates as: less Parisianist elitism) more regional devolution, more power for “les élus locaux” in the oppressed regions and all that funky chicken. (eg he recently wrote: “Le président Macron a négligé les partenaires sociaux, effacé le Parlement et méprisé les élus locaux… il faut tourner la page !”).

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The young-ish whippersnapper but already very experienced Laurent Wauquiez (more mainstream right than Bertrand, Wauquiez has been accused in the past of pushing the LR party to the right) is seen as a bit of a loser these days, in 2019 he resigned as president of Les Républicains as the candidate they chose to lead the European 2019 list turned out to be a complete disaster (François-Xavier Bellamy, a 33 year-old complete unknown and philosophy teacher from Versailles – a bastion of “cathos tradis”, hardline catholicism – who displayed homophobic leanings and was anti-abortion, not exactly what most rightwing voters aspire to). He recorded their worst ever score (8%) and undermined Wauquiez’s leadership, so much so that he had no choice but to resign. Things turned out better for F-X who was elected Euro MP…

Wauquiez would have little chance of winning the LR primary.

Centre-right Valérie Pécresse would probably come second in an LR primary if it was held tomorrow (she is no longer LR but she’d have to go through this Primaire du Centre et de la Droite to have any chance. Of course, she can always choose to go it alone, she’d probably get the 500 endorsement signatures, but her chances then would be nil, she wouldn’t be able to avail herself of the party logistics, it could be a costly affair for her if she doesn’t meet the 5% mark - that triggers the reimbursement by the State of campaign expenses -and she’d make many enemies on the right as she’d nick votes from LR, so that’s unlikely).
She’s also very experienced, a former minister etc. and now the big boss of the Île-de-France region, where she regularly scraps it out with the Socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who also wants to run for president as I wrote a week or so ago or thereabouts.

Yes, that’s why I wrote in my post (3rd para) about the dropping of immigration targets in the UK since 2018-with this new Australia-style points system. Something will have to give of course, and I predict that the net migration levels will be higher than during the 2010-2019 period, about 250K a year, as per the link I gave.

We are having the same argument here with the advent of the ComComs.
As we are at the uttermost edge of our ComCom, it makes little sense to us.
They have decided to give thousands of euros to a holiday villlage in the next village which turns into an outpost of Holland in the summer.
They bring everything with them with very little benefit to local commerce.
Bring back more power to our Mayor.

More devolution is generally welcome and Bertrand (and others I’m sure) will campaign on that, as I explained he’s already setting that “pro-territoires” stall (territoires being the new-ish buzzword for “la province”) with his pledge to "instaurer une République des territoires” with more powers for élus locaux, see link. It’s a recurrent pledge from politicians of all hues and whether Bertrand will do that if elected remains to be seen.

He has a positional problem (but don’t they all…), and his main problem at the mo and during this campaign which has effectively started I think is that he is seen as “another Macron” so rightwing voters are probably wondering why they’d choose him over Macron. But we shall see as they will most probably both run for president (Macron hasn’t said yet but it’s early days and I’m pretty sure he will).