Election winner Emmanuel Macron has the cringe factor
- Credit: AP
So Macron won. Hooray for that, says Aidan Semmens. But the president-elect still makes him cringe.
Like liberal-minded people everywhere, I breathed a deep sigh of relief when the election result came in on Sunday evening. But it was relief tinged with trepidation for a country I have deep affection for.
If I were French I would have voted with the winning side. But I'd have done so with very little enthusiasm – and I have some sympathy for the record numbers who either entered spoiled ballot papers or stayed out of it altogether.
As in 2002 when France chose Jacques Chirac over Jean-Marie Le Pen, this was surely a vote against Marine Le Pen rather than in favour of Emmanuel Macron.
And I'm not sure the exclusionist Le Pen is that much worse – or much different at all – than the leaders we are expected to endorse next month. Or that Macron is much better.
He is said to have abundant charm, a quality not much in evidence in UK politics south of the Scottish border. But charm can be a dangerous weapon.
And Macron is not just – as Le Pen dubbed him – the 'continuity option'. He embodies everything about the European Union that makes me cringe. All that might have swayed me to vote Leave.
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Let me make a brief detour to Somerset to explain what I mean.
The 'garden city' of Somerdale was opened in 1935 by Cadbury with social and sports facilities, wages and conditions, all well in advance of workers' expectations elsewhere. Until 2011 it was the production line for Dairy Milk, Creme Eggs, Crunchie and other favourites.
Then, following the takeover of Cadbury by the US giant Kraft Foods, Somerdale was shut. The workforce was made redundant, and all the machinery shipped to a greenfield site in western Poland. Which is where your Crunchie and the rest are now made.
At least until another, cheaper workforce is found – and another EU Special Economic Zone, with cash incentives for companies to move there.
Now, I have nothing against Polish immigrants who come to work here – or those from anywhere else. But I'm not sure much good is done by exporting not only jobs but whole production lines.
Especially when the routes, locations and incentives are all devised for the benefit of multinational corporations.
Which brings me back to Macron, a former finance ministry apparatchik with a pedigree in investment banking. A man who was to be seen recently in his home town, Amiens, trying to explain to striking tumble-dryer manufacturers why their jobs and their factory – like those of the Somerdale chocolatiers – are about to be exported to Poland.
The famous charm calmed them, apparently. For a while. But you can understand why many of those workers might have voted for Le Pen.
Macron's honeymoon may be brief, especially when he starts swinging the axe over public sector jobs, as he will.
With parliamentary elections to come next month, and no real party of his own, he faces an interesting future.
Despite his past membership of the Socialist Party, his economic instincts seem closer to those of Margaret Thatcher – or maybe, which isn't very different, Tony Blair.
His victory over the forces of darkness looked pretty conclusive at the weekend. But there are no guarantees that victory will stick long-term. And then what?