France needs to wake up and support Macron

France needs to wake up and support Macron

VOTESBYWOMEN_V41Voting for the Assemblée National in France is under way and Scheenagh Harrington is keeping everything crossed that the new president’s party En Marche can get the country moving again

Last weekend, while people in the UK were still absorbing the fall-out from the snap election, French voters were being asked to brave a scorching weekend to cast their ballot in the legislatives, elections that determine the composition of French parliament.

Despite blanket coverage on French news sites, there really wasn’t much to get excited about – the participation level was a decidedly meh 20 per cent for most of the day, rising to around 50 per cent as the day began to cool down.

As an outsider I found the record low turnout surprising, but the French voting system, which happens in rounds, means that many are experiencing fatigue only a few weeks after the presidential election. And many believed that En Marche, the party of newly elected president Emmanuel Macron was a shoo-in to win.

In the event, En Marche won 32% of the voting share, with Les Republicains (the conservative party of Francois Fillon and Nicolas Sarkozy) getting 21% and Marine Le Pen’s far right Front National picking up almost 14%, according to Le Monde. The Parti Socialiste, crippled by a lack of support for outgoing president François Hollande, fared disastrously, polling less than 10% of the vote, beaten by the communist Jean-Luc Mélenchon on 11%.

That leaves Macron’s army of political neophytes set to score a stunning, historic victory, with some media outlets predicting they will secure between 400 and 440 seats in l’hemisphère – the semi-circular room where the Assemblée Nationale meets. Unlike in the UK and US, new French leaders traditionally enjoy a warm and fuzzy honeymoon, with the electorate ready to give them the best possible chance of success – and God knows, this country needs more than a little sunshine.

The stagnant economy desperately needs a new vision and more than cheeky invitations to US climate scientists to come and work in France, while high unemployment rates, especially among the young, desperately need to be tackled. Macron represents a new start, with none of the grubby scandal that tainted Fillon or Le Pen. He’s young, so he can speak to the electorate most affected by joblessness and a lack of government support. And as an educated, sophisticated centrist, he’s able to flirt with the left and right sides of the political spectrum.

The priority will be tackling the trade unions, which have the capacity to bring the country to a standstill in a heartbeat – and recently did so when a controversial law was pushed through the Assemblée that reformed France’s notoriously restrictive labour laws. (These heavily favour employees, and any reforms which are seen to erode their rights are very unwelcome indeed.) Macron has already publicly stood up to bully-boys Putin and Trump, and the unions will find a much tougher opponent in him than Hollande. If he can get them to see he has the wider country’s interests at heart, then maybe he can effect real change.

Filling the seats of the Assemblée with his representatives could mean that the much-needed reforms that will drag France out of the doldrums become a reality. But only if this weekend is as successful as the previous one. All I can do is hope.

If centre-left political leaders were your boyfriends

If centre-left political leaders were your boyfriends


We are never, ever, ever getting back together with Tony Blair (like, ever) so it really HAS to work out with Emmanuel Macron

Barack Obama

Your mum still gets a bit wistful when his name comes up. “You just seemed so happy with him, darling. I’m not saying he was perfect – but you agreed on the big things. You respected him. And he did make you laugh, you can’t deny that.”

You explain to your mum that you always knew it wasn’t going to be forever. That’s just the way things work sometimes. That doesn’t mean that your time together wasn’t great. It was! Really great. So great. So, so painfully great. But it’s time to move on.

At night, you look at pictures of him on your phone and wonder if there was anything you could have done to make him stay. Or make him come back.

I still love you, you whisper.

But nobody is there.

Tony Blair

As you order your third glass of wine, your friends are bracing themselves. Then – oh God – somebody foolishly mentions something that tangentially reminds you of him (Iraq, D:Ream, the colour red), and here it comes.

“Tony,” you spit. “That f***ing liar! He’s so fake. He’s not even very bright. Not really. Everything he says is so obvious, it’s just that nobody ever thought to put it together that way before. But anybody could, if they thought of it. He such a dick! Did you see that picture of him on Facebook the other day? I thought he looked really tired, didn’t you? Really tired. I should probably just unfriend him, but it makes me laugh seeing him still trying to be relevant. Like, f*** off Tony, nobody cares. Oh, and did you see that other thing he said – it was just a little thing, Google it, but it’s on the second page of results so you have to click through…”.

Your friends wearily exchange glances. They get it. They do. It’s hard when you’ve let down like that. Especially when he was your first. But isn’t it time you just moved on?

The truth is, you’ve tried. But it’s just too hard. The truth is, you’d never felt like that before. And, even worse, you haven’t felt like that since.

You dream of him turning up one day, asking for you back.

You’d laugh in his face!

Almost certainly, that’s what you’d do.

Nick Clegg

Oh, Nick. Whatever happened to Nick? He was always just sort of… there. Hanging around. Looking hopeful. I mean, he was nice enough. Friends were a bit weird. That guy Dave he hung around with put you off in a particular. But overall – yeah, he was sweet. You never gave him much attention though, and in the end he just kind of drifted away.

Now, you look back and think: that could have been something really lovely, actually. Really special.

If Nick texted you now, you’d probably reply.

No, you definitely would.


Justin Trudeau

LOL, in your dreams mate.

Emmanuel Macron

Not being funny, right, but this one has got to work out. God! The disappointments, the liars, the pathetic inadequates… You’re sick of casting your eyes around and wondering if you could summon up the requisite enthusiasm for any of these losers. Remember 2015 when you honestly thought you were into Ed Milliband for, like, five minutes? Ugh. You even had a moment of madness regarding Jeremy Corbyn, but, no, a person has got to have some standards.

To be honest, you were on the verge of giving up entirely. Deleting Twitter and taking Question Time off series link. Accepting that, no matter what your dad said, there really wasn’t anyone out there for you.

And then. And then. Out of nowhere, there’s this guy. He’s young, he’s handsome, he’s saying all the right things. I mean, he’s *French*, FFS.

First date was pretty awesome. Next one’s on May 7th. Please please please please please let it go well. Let him be the one.