As most of you will probably be aware, France is passing through a period of considerable turbulence. Somehow, seemingly out of a clear blue sky, an enormous groundswell of negative opinion has erupted about the government and specifically about M. Macron. Superficially this is about the rise in price of fuel, an attempt to reduce not so much the CO2 emissions but the pollutants that are making air dangerous in a number of French cities. Actually there is a widespread unhappiness that the people at the bottom of the social pile are getting a raw deal compared to the very rich. M. Macron’s unfortunate aloofness from ordinary people (something we noted even before he was elected) has really not served him well.
The sudden emergence of the Gilets Jaunes movement has been astonishing. It’s been helped by the fact that everybody in France (very sensibly) has to carry high visibility jackets in their car, and these have now acquired an unintended purpose of a dramatic and very visible uniform. There has also been very clever use of social media so that near us only key, strategic motorway junctions are being blocked. Whether this coordination is being orchestrated, possibly from outside the country, is a very interesting question. There are interesting parallels with the Brexit campaign where right and left were pushed into an uneasy alliance.
Anyway, our own experience has been going to Cannes for church. We’ve left early so have tended to avoid the blockages — the French word manifestation is very helpful here. However coming back from the church Christmas Fair last Saturday proved to be very interesting. The mood generally was good-natured, in as much as it was directed to us, but it was a shallow and brittle bonhomie and we’re not sure we would have wanted to drive through with a Lamborghini or Bentley. There’s certainly also been a lot of damage. What’s been interesting is the rather shallow comments on why French culture is so volatile. We have our own take on this which, all being well, we will do next week.
In the meantime, it’s an interesting bet as to whether M. Macron (or, for that matter, Theresa May) will be in power in a weeks time.