Emmanuel Macron: France's economy minister takes his first step on road to the presidency

Nation’s self-appointed messiah makes his move for power

The new political movement, “En Marche!” (“Forwards!” or “On the Move!”), will be “neither left nor right” and will attempt to unlock France’s untapped energy
The new political movement, “En Marche!” (“Forwards!” or “On the Move!”), will be “neither left nor right” and will attempt to unlock France’s untapped energy

The French economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, has appointed himself the messiah-in-waiting who can haul France into the 21st century.

In a startlingly brash move for a never-elected politician aged 38, Mr Macron has launched a new political movement “En Marche!” (“Forwards!” or “On the Move!”) which will be “neither left nor right” and will attempt to unlock France’s untapped energy and genius.

Mr Macron insists that he has no plans to run for the French presidency next year but admits that 2022 may be a different story. Friends say that he COULD enter next year’s race but only if his mentor, President François Hollande, decides not to go for a second term.

Colleagues and rivals on the centre-left of French politics suggested that Mr Macron, intoxicated by his high opinion poll ratings, had embarked on a political ego-trip. They point out that the initials of his “movement”, EM, are also Mr Macron’s initials.

Since he was appointed economy and industry minister 20 months ago, Mr Macron has spearheaded Mr Hollande’s change of direction towards reformist, market-friendly social democracy rather than interventionist socialism. He is not a card-carrying Socialist and is therefore free to launch a new “movement” which, he insists, is not a political party.

Mr Macron, a former banker, has made many friends, but also many enemies on the traditional left, by attacking barriers to enterprise and innovation in France. He insists that the new digital world – from Amazon to Uber taxis – should be seen as an opportunity not a threat.

He will address a series of meetings from next month which will claim to represent a new “3.0” generation of politics. This seems to mean mostly that there will be interactive links to satellite meetings in other towns.

Mr Macron’s youth and can-do spirit have shone like a beacon in the relatively geriatric, slow-moving world of French politics. He has, however, annoyed many of his ministerial colleagues by trampling in their territory.

He infuriated the interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve last month when he entered the Brexit debate by saying that Calais migrant camps would move to Kent if Britain left the European Union.

Mr Macron is said to be especially detested by the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, 53, who was pre-Macron, the poster child for reformist left-wing politics in France.

Mr Macron is a short, dapper man, a brilliant pianist, and a “step-grandfather” in his late 30s. At the age of 16 he had an affair with his French teacher, Brigitte Trogneux. He married her ten years later. They have children and grandchildren from her previous marriage.

Ms Trogneux describes herself as “president of the Macron fan club”. She has recently moved into the ministry of economy and finance as her husband’s unpaid adviser and image consultant – to the fury of full-time civil servants.

The precise aims of “En marche!” are unclear. At a meeting launching the movement in his home town of Amiens in the Somme, Mr Macron said that he wanted to generate “new ideas for the country” and tap its “energy”.

Friends said that Mr Macron believed other politicians of both right and left based their policies on myths about a France “which does not really exist”. Macron wanted to “start with things as they are and to make proposals accordingly”.

So far, so vague. More prosaically, he has moved to bolster his position as the new whizzkid on the block in French politics. His “movement” will give him a platform and a legitimacy after the centre left (almost inevitably) loses power next year. He has postioned himself as more imaginative alternative to Prime Minster Valls as the “next big thing” on the French left.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in