Excerpts of a text in the Opinion pages of the Financial Times .
Emmanuel Macron is neither Margaret Thatcher nor Tony Blair
The French president starts from a vision of empowerment and social mobility
Sophie Pedder JUNE 8, 2018
While Emmanuel Macron appears increasingly isolated in Europe over his ambitious plans to reform the eurozone, he is succeeding in advancing his domestic agenda. But what, exactly, does this amount to? At home, his opponents have dubbed him Margaret Macron or Emmanuel Thatcher. Abroad, his showdown with the rail unions has been depicted as his “Thatcher moment”: a test of whether France’s homme de fercan face down striking workers and shake up the country. On the streets Mr Macron is indeed facing the stiffest test yet of his will to “unblock” France. But, in inspiration, the French president is closer to a first-term Tony Blair than to Thatcher — and would probably dislike the comparison to either former UK prime minister.
It is understandable that his critics depict Mr Macron as a red-blooded capitalist. A former investment banker at Rothschild, trained at the country’s top institutions, he embodies the rootless globalising elite. Today, the left accuses him of dismantling France’s cherished social model. Last month, Forbes magazine put the French president on its cover under the title “Leader of the free markets”. Mr Macron is indeed unapologetic about backing the private sector in order to encourage investment and job creation. To that end, he has cut taxes on business and the rich, loosened labour rules, and devised schemes to lure tech start-ups to Paris. At the same time, a public spending review, designed to find budget savings, is about to be published. Yet his thinking has little to do with a Thatcherite conception of the state, or of laissez-faire economics. “I believe in the market economy, the open world,” Mr Macron told me last summer. “But we need to rethink regulation so as to deal with the excesses of global capitalism.” With illiberal populists at the door, he argues that voters need to feel that they are not out there alone faced with the threat of machines, algorithms or open borders. What Mr Macron seeks is a benign way for the state to offer reassurance: a framework of protection that generates the confidence people need in order to feel they can accept or adapt to change. …
The writer is The Economist’s Paris bureau chief and author of ‘Revolution Française: Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation’. Letter in response to this article: Macron reminds me most of Mendès-France / From Francis Ghilès, Senior Research Fellow, CIDOB, Barcelona,