Before Russia invaded his country, Volodymyr Zelensky had an approval rating within Ukraine of around 32 per cent. Now it is 91 per cent.
So, in a way, who really can blame Emmanuel Macron for indulging in a bit of Zelensky cosplay? He is just weeks away from a presidential election, so why shouldn’t he grow out his stubble, dishevel his hair, dress up in a French special forces-branded hoodie and invite a photographer in to take pictures of him in what has been deliberately styled to look like his own war bunker, even though there is no bunker, and no war?
It will, if nothing else, be of benchmarking use for political analysts seeking to piece together the cause of President Zelensky’s unrivalled popularity. Is it down to his inspirational leadership in a time of unimaginable horror? Is it his courage, for staying put in Kyiv while gangs of mercenaries roam the streets with contracts to assassinate him? Is it that he has moved his people and the world by finding the perfect words in every impossible situation he has faced? Or is it his hoodie?
As recently as 24 hours ago, these questions were unknowable. But if Macron somehow fails to surge into the low 90s in the wake of his entirely self-imposed fancy dress day in the Elysee Palace, then the final one of these options can at least be discounted.
It is arguable that rather too much has already been made of a photograph of a president wearing a hoodie. Regular Macron botherers have attested that he is in fact a regular wearer of dress-down attire appropriated from his special forces regiment. It is, after all, just a guy in a jumper.
But then again, it’s not. Normal people, of which there are many, though probably very few reading this, can be forgiven for not quite understanding why so much attention is lavished upon such trivialities as the president’s choice of jumper. But what is not always so easy for normal people to understand, because they’ve got actual lives to be getting on with, is that these politicians quite literally ask for it.
David Miliband was not mercilessly mocked for several years simply for holding a banana. Nor was the same done to Ed Miliband, simply for eating a bacon sandwich. The point is that, on both these occasions, the politician in question sent out invitations to photographers to come and photograph them, in the tragically correct belief that there was nothing more important for them to do that morning than photograph them having their breakfast.
And likewise, Emmanuel Macron’s action man office shots have not emerged by accident. It is all very carefully curated, and in this case, carefully curated to look like a complete wally.
We should point out that this pantomime vanity is absolutely by no means limited to politicians (though they are certainly the specialists in the genre). The golden thread runs right through David Miliband’s banana and all the way up to and including this entirely legitimate news headline of last year: “Prince Andrew demands to dress as an admiral for his father’s funeral.”
To that end, no one appears to have asked the elite French paratrooper regiment what they make of the presidential loan of their leisurewear. Special forces, with all their daring and bravery, occupy a special place in the public imagination, and rightly so. And the recruitment process has not changed in a long time. As has been explained in countless books on the subject, armed forces throughout the world find that, in high stress combat situations, 90 per cent of soldiers primarily seek to find a way to not be killed.
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They find that only 10 per cent proactively seek out, engage and destroy the enemy, and it this elite 10 per cent that quickly find their way in to the special forces. And it is why, on the rare occasion such people are interviewed for TV documentaries and so on, they are nothing like the standard military officer class. More often than not, they have come from very normal backgrounds, and just happen to be quadruply hard and utterly, utterly terrifying.
All of which is a very long way of at least wondering whether Monsieur Macron, a Rothschild banker from the most prestigious school in Paris, and the first French president ever to have not done military service (he was too busy doing his second degree at the time), would necessarily be a natural fit in the elite Air Parachute Commando No 10, whose hoodie he has somehow acquired.
Who of us, truly, can know? And more’s the point, there does not appear to be a soul in France predicting anything other than a Macron win in just over a month from now, of which no small part is down to the war in Ukraine. Imitation has long been the highest form of flattery. In this case, it may be a way of saying thank you, as well.
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