French Breakfast

France’s legislature gets elected today. It seems entirely likely that a large majority of the seats will be won by parties which didn’t even exist a couple of years ago. After last Sunday’s first round, we’re into the runoffs, which are first-past-the-post for the 577 seats. Well, not quite 577, because a very small number of first-round contests were won by candidates who got over 50% of the vote and enough people voted for there to be a quorum. (You can’t win a seat which has tens of thousands of eligible voters should you get 66% if only three votes get cast.)

Unhelpfully, this summary may get obscured by adverts depending on your device, but it’s the only intelligible thing I’ve found where the graphics make it through GoogleTranslate. Macron’s La Republique En Marche (LREM)  has allied with Francois Bayrou’s Mouvement Democratique (MoDem), and they are expected to win about 430 seats, with LREM getting 370 and MoDem getting 60. The Republicans are likely to emerge as the largest opposition party with about 100, and the rest are expected to have slim pickings. Marine Le Pen may get in, but even if she does, she’s unlikely to have more than four colleagues, more likely just one. Neither Left group — Melenchon’s hard-left France Insoumise and Hamon’s Partie Socialiste — will do well. They are both on course for numbers in the teens, and you need at least 15 to be recognised as a proper party with automatic rights of representation on parliamentary committees and suchlike. What follows are some pieces about where the parties are likely to go from here. It’s not all that coherent, but I’ve found these bits interesting, anyway.

“Catastrophic” is not too strong a word to describe the PS’s loss of support. At the last general election, they won a big majority, and this time they are struggling even for recognition. Here’s a piece from Le Monde about how they’re taking it:

Throughout the country, socialist leaders and activists say they are waiting for the results of the second round, which could cause their party to lose up to 264 deputies, to think of the “after”. Many are still struggling to assess the consequences of this “major reality shock , as one of them describes.

“When you’re an activist, it’s very hard. I’ve been fighting for fifteen years, and yes, I clearly have a feeling of failure. There we are at the bottom of the hole and we have become inaudible. Someone would have announced this result a year ago, we would not have believed. An explosion of the PS with a siphonage in good standing by LRM, it was not seen coming, “ says Sylvain Mathieu, head of the PS in the Nièvre. …The explanations vary according to local contexts. When some of them rebelled against the local barons who had fallen into disgrace, others pointed to the lack of enthusiasm generated by novice candidates. Everywhere, the bitterness towards the elected officials who took the LRM train as soon as possible is strong.

For many, the PS label doomed the candidates. “We had three weeks of good campaign ,” reminds Mickaël Fernandes, campaign manager in the eighth riding of the North, in Roubaix and Wattrelos . I can not tell you how many times we have heard: “You guys are nice, but the PS, we do not want anymore!” If our candidate had run on the label La France insoumise or La République en marche he would have done better , says the activist, who joined at the end of 2011. Who says logo PS, says Hollande, says Valls, declared decline of nationality

A little consolation, a small sentence comes from those who are looking for renewal: “at least, the situation has clarified” with the verdict of the ballot boxes. The “real socialists” and those who have joined the presidential majority will find it hard to make common cause in the future. Considered a “professional politician” , the first secretary of the Socialist Party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, incarnates, for the militants of the left wing of the Party, what they “no longer want to see” .

After the second round, there will be time for refounding. All agree on the need to discuss , within the sections, “the orientations that this political party has the vocation to carry” . For some, the PS can not be reborn from its ashes. “The party is dead, it has been too long a party of elected,” says Mickaël Fernandes, judging it useless to “persist” . A long-time socialist activist from Marseilles, more nuanced, considers that “the PS has seen this before” . “It is the party of Blum, Jaurès, Mendes France, Rocard, JospinThe PS is the party of social transformation, that of the defense of employees and public services. We will disappear when the problems of our fellow citizens have disappeared, he believes . There is going to be a crossing of the desert, it is obvious, remains to know how long it will last .

Whatever the degree of bitterness, fatalism or anger, all are convinced. There is a political space available between “the liberalism of Emmanuel Macron and the extreme left of Jean-Luc Mélenchon , for socialism, social democracy. It remains to know how to seize it .

Keeping with PS self-analysis, Lilian Alemagna and Rachid Laïreche examine where the Left might go from here:

A reversal of more than half a century. The wave of the Republic in motion (LREM) in the first round of the legislative elections crushed the French left on Sunday. The Socialist Party, at 7%, falls to its lowest historical; Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s unbridled France lost, with 11%, 8 points compared to its presidential score; Environmentalists are at 4%; The communists to less than 3% … None of these formations should be able, by themselves, to form a parliamentary group. We must go back to the beginnings of the Fifth Republic and the Gaullist scroll to find a weak left in the Assembly.

At the moment, the main PS officials agree on one thing: “We will have to rebuild everything from floor to ceiling,” believes MEP Emmanuel Maurel. But despite this historic defeat, few voices are raised to demand a congress before the end of the year, as the party’s statutes do. “The work that is waiting for us is to rebuild a left of government that no longer exists today,” argues Romain Colas, released Sunday in Essonne. It’s much deeper than repairing April 21. “ ” Considering the state of the party, I do not know if the urgency is to have a congress of clarification in September, “continues Maurel, representative of the left wing . You have to ask yourself, see if you want to stay together … I’m not sure that’s the case. “

No one is asking – for now – the head of the boss, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis. “Why destabilize the boat that has already lost a lot of mossaillons by organizing a putsch against the captain?” Asked former minister Laurence Rossignol. “Cambadélis can no longer remain, it must be clear: to announce the date of the congress and that he will not run for another term, however , decides a member of the management. The crisis is deep and it crystallizes too much. The new generation will attempt an offensive but as none of them won the legislative elections they will calm down. “

After a national office seminar on Monday, a national council is scheduled for 24 June. The strategic question of a formation caught between Macron and Mélenchon should again arise. This is an essential issue, as his parliamentary group, many of whom will be elected to Macron’s mercy, could, at the special session, offer his confidence to the government. “I do not know if the PS can survive, ” said the boss of a large federation. He is caught up in internal contradictions that have been insoluble for too long, and in a stranglehold powerful enough to condemn us permanently to marginality. We lack an incarnation, a political line and a legitimacy. “ Which Mélenchon has built.

According to Mélenchon, this is a kind of witness passage. The former Socialist already imagines himself a leader of the Left. But it lays down its conditions. His spokesman, Alexis Corbière, is waiting for the end of the legislative elections to take stock, but loosens a few tracks: “We were always in favor of the rally, we were ready to welcome the Socialists and we are always ready to do so. But for that, we should not be in the vagueness . “ Understand: the interested parties must leave the PS to join France rebellious.

Faced “to the field of ruins to the PS”, France insoumise has a blow to play according to the political analyst Gaël Brustier. Who warns: “Mélenchon must not confuse the political conflict with excess. And I do not know what he wants, I feel that he is satisfied with what he got. But if he wants to make progress, it’s time for him to speak to a maximum of French people. “

For some socialists, “space exists” between an all-powerful Macron and a “too cleaving” Mélenchon. Drawing lessons from the presidential and wishing to detach themselves from the apparatus PS, many of them want to launch their own company this summer. For Benoît Hamon, it will be July 1 in Paris. Anne Hidalgo is also preparing the sequel under the name “From tomorrow”. Matthias Fekl plans to revive his movement, called “Movida”. All want to involve “intellectuals” and refer to what the Socialists had known before the congress of unity in Epinay in 1971: a multiplication of initiatives. They promise to “converge in due course”.

Brustier analyzed the first round results for Liberation:

The partisan system of the Fifth Republic is dead and buried. The bulk of the political staff of the last ten, fifteen, or thirty years is dismissed ruthlessly. The political parties of the Fifth Republic, that is to say those which have governed since 1958 and alternately since 1981, are suffering a historical setback and are returning to the doorway of our political history. Another organization of political life is being set up. A new parliamentary staff replaces the former, while the fundamentals of the two major parties of government are also those of the LREM majority. The faces change but not the political and ideological heart. This situation is a consequence of the crisis of regime of the Fifth Republic, born of the crisis of 2008. It is this crisis of regime that President Macron has the function of solving. He substituted one political staff for another. The parties of government no longer obtained consent. Tonight, they’re out.

The In Motion Party was designed with this in mind. It is a kind of electoral trust, a party-enterprise which reminds in some respects Berlusconi’s Forza Italia in 1994. The centralization of investitures, the frequent weakness of implantation of candidates, the bet made on the “wave” Macron rendered Winning by the collapse of participation, reveal above all that parliamentarism is not only rationalized, it is also relegated.

Conclusion: We are seeing a strengthening of the fundamentals of the regime. It is more a restoration or a rigidification than an update of the Fifth Republic.

The Macron era opens with an ambiguity: it promotes in fact liberal reforms by adhering to the fundamentals of a diffuse ideology in our society, that of the “national gathering” described by Philippe Burrin. In the name of the unity of the nation, this ideology refuses divisions and conflicts. It is consubstantial with the Macronian discourse. It made the fortune of many political currents before.

On the plateau of France 2 tonight, the outgoing deputy and secretary of state for relations with the Parliament Christophe Castaner delivered a condensed of this ideology. The risk, of course, is to interpret this evening’s result as reflecting the will of a unanimous country. An idealized representation of the unity of a country in multifractured facts, it could have made the fortune of the macronism before, one day, to cause its fall.

En Marche is too new to have traditions not to be faithful to. In fact, it’s too new to have any traditions at all or any kind of detailed policy manifesto. Nor does it have a thriving grass-roots structure: for now at least, it’s going to be directed from the center. It exists, apparently, simply to provide the President with parliamentary votes. What people are going to get is a new bunch of centrist politicians, and it remains to be seen what they will actually do.  Aurelie Delmas looks at the “contract with the nation” the new party’s deputies are signing up to:

The candidate had announced the color during the campaign: he would not accept the divergent voices in his camp. In a speech in January, Macron explained: “No invested candidate will be able to express any disagreement with the heart of our project.” A month later, he again warned France Inter: “Each candidate who will be invested will sign with me “Contract with the nation”. That is to say, he is committed to voting with me the big projects, that is to say to support our project. There are no slingers. “

This concern for discipline obviously did not leave him after his election. The government spokesman, Christophe Castaner, also came to recall after the first round to the future LREM deputies that “when a collective decision is taken, and it will be taken at the level of the group for the National Assembly, it must be the Rule for all “. While admitting that “out of 400 [deputies], there may be one, two, three persons” who act as slingers within the majority. A strict line, evidently dictated by the memory of the Socialist slingers whom Macron met with as Minister of the Economy.

But by looking at the contract, which the candidates had to sign in their application, there are in fact only broad positions of principle, no specific commitments. The text is organized around six “projects”: “education and culture”, “labor society”, “modernization of the economy”, “security of the nation”, “democratic renewal” and ” “.

If Macron defends “clear commitments” , there are no real promises in this text but rather rather vague phrases like “putting the transmission of fundamental knowledge, our culture and our values ​​back at the heart of our project School and our universities “, ” moralizing and empowering public life, renewing national representation “ or ” recreating economic and social mobility through digital, research and innovation, work and entrepreneurship “ .

The text is a little more precise about work, since it promises to “simplify the law, reform unemployment insurance to make it a universal right with new requirements for everyone”, in accordance with the candidate’s program. But nothing really binding, then.

Right-wingers are in a slightly better position than the left. For the moment, the Republicans have held together and retained more seats, and will have a bigger group in the Assembly. For the moment, though, because they are likely to split after the election. Alain Auffray looks at the upcoming schism:

In the coming debacle, the right will find this pattern of relief: Sunday evening, it will finally hit the bottom. In the six weeks between the election of Emmanuel Macron and the first round of the legislative elections, the LR-UDI alliance swept down the toboggan of its ambitions. After May 7, she had sincerely believed she could approach the 289-strong, and thus an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

Ten days later, she felt fortunate to be able to form a large minority of 150 to 200 elected, the level she had reached in 2012. On the eve of the second round, now she hopes to save at best A hundred seats, while recognizing not to be able to exclude to fall below the threshold of the 60 deputies …

Whether the defeat is complete or outright humiliating, the hour will be, from Sunday evening, settling the account and reconstruction. Given the seriousness of the accusations that have been exchanged over the last few months by the highest officials of the party, the question of the split will necessarily be asked. There are the “fierce” who supported Fillon to the end and “the deflated” who brutally let go of him, “the sectaries” who swore an oath of opposition to Emmanuel Macron and “traitors” who joined the President elected with weapons and baggage. Can all these political leaders still live together?

The fate of the LR group will depend on the balance of power between two camps: on the one hand “the constructive”, ready to participate in the presidential majority by voting trust in the government; On the other, the “legitimists,” who were resolved to join in opposition to a majority that remained, in their view, fundamentally left-wing. The former, encouraged by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, could push the likely deputy of Hauts-de-Seine Thierry Solere, a close to the Prime Minister. The latter, supported from outside by Wauquiez and from inside by Eric Ciotti, should be favorable to the recall of Christian Jacob, in favorable ballottage in his constituency of Seine-et-Marne.

Who, constructive or legitimate, will be in the LR group? Difficult to risk any prognosis. Both sides are hoping for at least a score of elected officials and the game will probably be arbitrated by the hesitators, who may decide at the last minute. To put everyone in agreement and preserve the unity of the “family”, some leaders of LR like Bernard Accoyer push the deputy of the Ain Damien Abad, one of the rare LR of his region to have resisted the first Turn to LREM thrust. He proposes himself to make the “link” between the two camps.

If they are a minority, the constructive might be tempted to secede to create a group willing to support the government Philippe. To exist in the future Assembly, they could regroup with the survivors of the rout which obviously will not spare the centrists of the IDU. “This is only a hypothesis,” tempers an elected LR. The unknowns are still so numerous that the equation of the recomposition on the right remains insoluble until Sunday.

Now we’ll move on to discussing other matters. Such as North Korea and POUTS. Here’s a disturbing piece by Sean O’Grady:

The treatment the North Koreans evidently meted out to Otto Warmbler, an American student who fell foul of the authorities, was appalling and utterly disproportionate to whatever minor offence he committed. It is, though, perfectly normal in a nation that routinely imprisons its enemies in the most barbaric and inhuman places….

Many thousands of Korean prisoners have been though what Warmbuer has been though, being abused so badly that it caused brain damage. Maybe the guards did so with added violence because they have been taught that the Americans are sub-humans. They may have murdered an American citizen, and done so with maximum cruelty. The reaction of the American people is rightly distressed; the difficulty is how their president can exact some sort of justice without igniting a regional conflagration.

It is getting more urgent as every missile launch becomes more sophisticated, accurate and longer-ranging. Meanwhile, the North Koreans are also becoming world-leaders at cyber warfare. We know that they have endangered the health of many people in this country too. For we now know it was from inside North Korea that the NHS was brought to its knees using WannaCry ransomware.

All that leaves us with one man who could do something about Kim: Donald Trump. The problem is that every previous policy, from the “sunshine” approach during the Clinton years pursed with the enthusiastic support of the South Koreans, through to the toughest of UN sanctions, has failed to have much effect.

Kim has seen the example of despots around the world, such as Saddam, Assad and Gaddafi, who have either given up their weapons of mass destruction or just been found to be bluffing, and faced lethal changes both to their rule and to the lives of themselves and their families. He knows that the only thing keeps him on his throne is his nukes. The West (that is, Trump) has to persuade him that he will be able to stay there and prosper at the expense of his people without those nuclear missiles, and, indeed, without threatening hospitals in Britain. Even the most dedicated appeaser or deal maker would find that a difficult challenge.

Donald Trump may yet do it. I have written before about the value of an audacious, even reckless, visit to Pyongyang by President Trump to make some sort of breakthrough, whether by bribing, bullying, cajoling or even charming America’s most unpredictable of enemies. That may not be for now, given the rawness of the emotions after Kim’s latest crime against humanity. A world where President Trump is our only hope against the ruthless Kim is not a comfortable place.

It’s salutary to be reminded that the destabilisation of POUTS is not purely a matter of internal US politics. But unstable he certainly is. Frauke Steffens considers his brief excursion into normality following the shooting of Steve Scalise:

“By playing tonight, you show the world: our democracy is not intimidated by threats and violence,” said Trump on Thursday night in a videotape published on Twitter for the Congressional Baseball Game, for which the Republicans had been training in Alexandria before the attack. His reaction to the action in the immediate vicinity of the American capital had until then been praised by his critics. The New York Times wrote that the president had responded appropriately to the severity of the event. In fact, Trump initially dispensed with political blame.
Did he perhaps suspect that he was not well advised to denounce the harsh rhetoric of political debate as a cause of violence, as some Republicans did so quickly?… However, regardless of why the President was reticent, he did not keep the self-imposed restriction for a long time. While Washington was still discussing whether the escalating war of words between Trump adversaries and advocates had instigated the assassin James T. Hodgkinson or whether mental problems were the real core cause of his actions, Trump fell back into tried and tested behavioral patterns. Already on Thursday, the president had turned to Twitter again, on the attack and decried Mueller’s investigation on Twitter as a “witch hunt”, which emanates from bad people.

almost 200 deputies are suing the President on the grounds that he has accepted money from foreign governments through his companies.
But, like Mueller’s investigation, the handling of this lawsuit will take a long time. So Trump can play on time in both cases, even if the examinations accompany him every day of his presidency and encourage him to further outbursts on Twitter and the press. It will depend on whether at least one of the investigations leads to the 2018 elections – and how much weight the voters attach to the results when they choose the members in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Trump’s appeal shows that the President does not have a long-term strategy for disagreements with those who gave him a pass in the election campaign but now want to implement their political goals. The President reacts as usual to these conflicts: times he makes allegations and tries to negotiate like a businessman, sometimes he is angry, threatened and insulted. Neither the attack of Alexandria nor the pressure of the investigation will change anything in this policy.

Even the Senate has done something POUTS probably doesn’t like, having voted 97-2 to extend the sanctions on Russia, a remarkable degree of unanimity. Not shared, however, across the Atlantic, as Angela Merkel is hopping mad about it, as Die Welt reports:

After a bitter criticism by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) has also sharply criticized plans by the US Senate for an extension of the existing Russian sanctions. It is strange that in punishing Russian behavior the European economy should be the target of sanctions, said government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Friday in Berlin. “That must not be.” Merkel shares Gabriel’s worries. “There is a great consensus,” said Seibert.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday when the law came into force and the US president was using sanctions for German and European companies in connection with pipeline systems, “we consider this to be a violation of international law “. The plans were diametrically opposed to German interests.

The bill is actually about the sale of American liquefied gas and the displacement of Russian natural gas supplies from the European market. “Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe and not for the United States of America!”

With regard to the sanctions of the West against Russia , the plans, according to the Federal Foreign Office, constitute a break. “For three and a half years we have really pulled together across the Atlantic,” said the spokesman. “With this bill we are in a different situation.” The motive of the decision was no longer just the Russian annexation of the Crimea and the behavior Russia in the east of Ukraine, but the allegations of the influence of Russia on the US presidential election. Therefore, this time there was no agreement with the US Senate.

On the bill in the US Senate, 97 of the 100 senators voted on the bill. The House of Representatives, the second chamber of the Congress, has yet to vote on the expansion. Trump then has to sign it. “There is still time to reverse it,” said the Berlin Foreign Minister. We know that the US government is “not very happy” about the decision. It was hoped that the decisions would be changed.

OK, that’s enough about how France is complicated and POUTS makes the world even more complicated than it already was. What’s abundantly clear is that there’s a lot of turnover going on in the political classes. For instance, the new right-wing PM of Ireland is a mixed-race gay, Leo Varadkar, who’s just 38. Which has got Donald Clarke worried:

What the hell just happened? I doze off in front of Antiques Roadshow for half an hour and wake to find decades have passed. Nothing ages a fellow so much as discovering he is now older than the head of state….

If the heart kept ticking it was inevitable that a Taoiseach would eventually arrive as my junior. I grimly imagined some near contemporary – remembered stuffing ballot boxes at the university, perhaps – taking the ermine and ushering in my generation’s slide towards oblivion.

“Wasn’t he younger brother to that guy who nearly died drinking developing fluid?” I imagined myself saying. “A bright little spark. I always expected he’d claw his way to the top.”

The Taoiseach is supposed to look like a grizzled ancient in the background of a Jack B Yeats painting. He’s not supposed to know who Talking Heads are. When operating a mobile phone (or any other piece of technology that doesn’t run on valves) he’s supposed to suggest a goose looking into a bottle.

Take a breath, old idiots. Get your head around this. Leo Varadkar would have been a little too young to appreciate Super Mario Bros when it arrived. His James Bond is Timothy Dalton. If he has a Dr Who then it’s probably Sylvester McCoy, but the series was in hiatus before he was old enough to care.

Then there’s this mess over in France. Obviously we’d rather have an infant than the latest sprig from a harvest of fascists, but the arrival of Emmanuel Macron heralds another jarring plunge through the generations.

Oh well. Mrs May is closing in on 60. [Actually, she already is, by a few months.] Her most likely successor will be a rival from her own party. David Davis will do nicely at 69. Amber Rudd is a few months older than me. Good stuff. But the favourite, Boris Johnson, is a few months younger.

We have another reason to wish him ill.

For Mrs May will be succeeded, and sooner rather than later. Amongst the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire were the last shreds of the prime minister’s credibility. The Independent’s editorial explains:

The destruction of Theresa May’s reputation has been so rapid and so complete that it is hard to imagine that she could ever recover the minimum respect required to do her job.

After an election in which she was humiliated, punished for failing to engage with the voters, she faced the disaster of the fire in a west London tower block that killed more than 30 people, mostly poor social tenants. This was a chance to show that the caricature of her as an unfeeling  robot was unfair, but instead she made it worse by avoiding contact with residents when she visited the site on Thursday and by a stilted interview on Newsnight last night.

This is not a matter of asking our politicians to emote for the TV cameras, although some acting skills are needed in any leadership position. It is about recognising that one of the tasks of a national leader is to speak for the country and, at times, to feel and to express its pain. Ms May’s inability to do so is not some trivial failing of public relations or media management, but something close to a disqualification for the highest office.

Ms May finds herself, therefore, in a more difficult position than Gordon Brown after he failed to call an election 10 years ago. Her party is still too stunned by the unexpected loss of its parliamentary majority to move against her, and in any case it is not clear how much of an improvement Boris Johnson, David Davis, Amber Rudd or Philip Hammond would be. Meanwhile, she has not yet completed the negotiations with the Democratic Unionist Party that would allow her to govern at all.

Yet the Brexit talks are due to open in Brussels at 11am on Monday. Mr Davis, the Brexit Secretary, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, have a lot of preliminaries to get through, but within weeks they will start to hit difficult questions that are going to require decisions to be made.

We are approaching the point at which Ms May will simply lack the authority to make them.

Fun times ahead. Enjoy Sunday.


  1. My Twitter feed this morning was filled with Brexit talk and how on earth the government will choose to negotiate their way out of the European Union.

    One person suggested that Brexit could simply be canceled but another said that it has been triggered and cannot be. Is that true?

  2. As someone from the EU side commented the other day, Britain doesn’t leave the EU until someone signs the divorce papers.

    Of course it can be cancelled. It would be outrageous if it couldn’t be. Should a new government come to power having been elected on a Remain manifesto and pass an Act of Parliament that the UK will remain a member of the EU, for instance, it would be illegal for the EU to boot us out.

    • I would hope that cooler heads might prevail. I see talk of a new referendum or simply having Parliament decide what to do. New opinion polls favor Remain but I would be leery of having opinion polls decided something as momentous as that.

      One thing I did see is that the first referendum should have required some sort of super majority threshold and that the 52% to 48% vote might simply mean “We don’t really know”, not ‘Let’s Leave!!!”.

      It sounds like at minimum there may be more voting in your future.

      • Oh, that’s a certainty. I’m guessing there will be a general election next May.

  3. Thanks, Michael – a good roundup. World’s in a mess. It unfortunately will probably get worse before it gets better. Holding to the thought that people of Good Will – no matter what party – will eventually join together and we’ll get out of this mess. And the hope that eventually will be sooner rather than later. Otherwise all I can do is whatever I find at hand to do – from phone calls to fundraising – and keep on keepin’ on. {{{HUGS}}}

Comments are closed.