Well to widespread relief, if to not universal joy, M. Macron will be president of France and with a very sizeable majority. It’s a remarkable victory. After seeing an impressive performance by him on a British television documentary two years ago we mentioned him to a couple of French people who seem to barely even know his name. And now he is president. We have just listened to his speech after the victory and found it very fine. Passionate, gracious, inspirational and clear, and he even mentioned global warming.
But for those who pray can we ask for prayers for him and his cabinet? Now the tricky bit starts. As a certain Mr Trump has found out, you can win elections but running a country is something else.
A long time ago Voltaire – the “patron saint” of secular France – pointed out that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman nor an empire. Names and slogans are often betrayed by history as the inhabitants of the United Kingdom may well soon find out. And the problems that he will face can surely be summarised under the great slogan of the French Republic: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.
With respect to Liberté M. Macron is going to need all his wisdom to find a way for people to be free from terrorism without being enslaved by surveillance, police and monitoring and without losing long-cherished freedoms in the name of security.
With respect to Égalité, he needs to resist rewarding the wealthy and thriving elites to which he and many of his followers belong and find a way to channel wealth to those who are struggling in the troubled urban areas and rural backwaters . Thankfully, inequality in France is much less than in Britain where it appears to be something of a growth industry. But then it ought to be: perhaps the reason why France exploded bloodily in the revolution of 1789 was that it was an utterly unstable social structure with a few very rich on top of a heap of very poor people. There’s a lot to be said for having a sizeable middle class: Theresa, please note. Everybody we talked to in France points out how here governing elites tend to govern for themselves. M. Macron needs to reach out to those who feel they have lost out. If he doesn’t, then the results of the next presidential election in 2022 may be very different.
And as for Fraternité? Well that may be the biggest challenge. To create unity amongst the different tribes of France – and tribes based on culture, religion and locality there are – is going to be far from easy. M. Macron has great charm and he is going to need every ounce of it, plus grace and common sense to build that. He needs to create a cabinet with links into every community: if he wants to call it ‘a cabinet of the people for the people’ he has our permission to use that slogan. (Just fast track our citizenship applications.)
So well done M. Président Désigné. And accept our prayers: you are going to need them.