Revolutionary Outsider, Macron is France's best bet for a non-Le Pen government
Just before sitting down to write this article, I placed a £20 bet on Emmanuel Macron to become the next President of France. At meagre odds of 4/7, this is never going to be a big money-maker. The bet is both symbolic, ascribing my support, and putting my money where my mouth is: Emmanuel Macron is France's best bet for a non-Le Pen government.
He's been likened to Donald Trump, heckled by lefties as a "copy-and-paste Tony Blair", touted as 'Mr Perfect' by admiring fans and could potentially become, at a mere 39, France's youngest ever president.
But who is Emmanuel Macron?
After four years spent raking up a quick fortune as an investment banker, Macron was drafted into Hollande's government as a presidential economic advisor before graduating to Economy Minister in 2014. He made a name for himself with his "Macron Law" (not to be his last egotistical naming decision), a contentious reform that granted shops the right to open for longer hours on Sundays.
Problems first arose when the ambitious young statesman set up his own political party while still working under Hollande. Rather dubiously mirroring his own initials, En Marche! (On the Move!) was presented as a centrist party, formed to promote a democratic peoples' revolution.
The tearaway's party has gone from strength to strength, now mustering more than 200,000 followers, balancing traditionally liberal economic policy with more progressive social plans and public investment.
As a speaker he is polished, confident and suave. He holds himself well at the lectern and commands the respect of audiences. Macron would make for a good-looking President. More of a Justin Trudeau than a Donald Trump.
“He's a better version of Tony Blair”
Macron has set himself up as the revolutionary outsider, running against a worn-out, ineffective establishment. In this respect alone, he could tentatively be likened to Trump. Macron doesn't represent a traditional party. He's never run for election before. Yet his rallies have already drawn massive crowds, often dwarfing those of his rivals. Emmanuel Macron is the plucky underdog, offering voters the opportunity of change.
Thankfully for France, the comparisons end when it comes to policy and composure. Trump focused on protectionist and nationalistic policy, Macron is sending out an opposite message. He wants to bring about a "democratic revolution" and "unblock France".
His positioning as a centrist rebel has helped propel him from relative anonymity to the number two spot in the polls. A close second to resident scumbag, Marine Le Pen.
One major catch of his centrist positioning could be the problem of forming a parliamentary majority if he were to win the election. There is evidence, however, that he is trying to sweeten up other parties.
Whatever the image, Emmanuel Macron isn't a marginalised iconoclast at all: he is the living embodiment of the 21st century political establishment. Yet, he's cultivated a revolutionary image, helped by his En Marche! brand.
Some have criticised him as a 'Blairite' but, perhaps typical of many, Sebastian Grogan, a second year French student at Oxford, sees Macron's approach as his main strength: "It's the second coming of the third way! He's the last hope for the progressive majority. I'm voting for him because he transcends party divides and brings together the best ideas of the left and of the right under one banner. His is above all, a philosophy of optimism, unlike the barren wasteland that Le Pen paints of France."
A fervent Macron supporter, Sebastian went with his older brother to see Macron talk in London in February. "Simply being in London to see him speak, to see a man talk for 2 hours without any notes about the issues that he felt so clearly passionate about was extraordinary. For me he ticks all the boxes, he has that Blairite charisma, a progressive manifesto and is also pro-EU and pro-globalisation. He's a better version of Tony Blair."
Hardly surprising given his academic and professional background, Macron's manifesto focuses heavily on the economy. Given France's struggling economy and worsening unemployment levels, it is pivotally vital issue for the next president.
In traditionally liberal fashion, Macron wants to give businesses more control, reduce corporation tax and remove obstructive regulations, but he also has plans to improve the system for unemployment benefits and create more jobs to mobilise France's stagnating workforce.
he offers the opportunity for a restored France
Le Grand Débat took place on Monday; Melenchon was the real winner, with his acerbic wit, contemptuous put downs and fearless confrontations with Le Pen: the real mindless-popcorn-gobbling moments came when these far-left and far-right titans clashed.
But Macron presented himself well, faced down his critics and came across as the only candidate with a real shot at the presidency.
This leads to the logical conclusion of the argument and deciding factor on why I decided to part with my hard-earned cash in backing a horse in whose race I could merely observe.
France's two round election system means that neither extreme candidate can win. Get Melenchon in the second round and everyone who doesn't kiss a statue of Marx every night before going to bed will vote for the other candidate. Get Le Pen and - touch wood - everyone who isn't a pitchfork-carrying thug will collaborate to make sure she doesn't get in.
Benoît Hamon’s consistent poor polling has left him a non-entity. François Fillon scuppered what should have been a walk in when he paid his wife €800,000 for very little work.
This leaves Emmanuel Macron, logically France's best chance of avoiding a Le Pen government. Not just that, but he offers the opportunity for a restored France, ready to rebuild their society, promote integration and re-establish the pillars of "Liberté, Égalité, fraternité".
About the author
Despite sharing the company of Rimbaud, Voltaire and co. for the third year in a row, Alec's real passion lies in writing. When the French degree permits it, he can be found scribbling away for a variety of publications, including The Spectator's Coffee House blog, Spiked-Online and - oh, how could he forget? - Disclaimer Mag!
A self-professed bon vivant, Alec is currently busy sunning himself in the South of France, whilst gleefully perusing the bountiful array of vin on offer. He's also been known to dabble in unscrupulous cheese-pairing.
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