A Meteoric Rise

10 January 2024

France has a new prime minister but not yet a new government. Perhaps the delay is intended to wring the full benefit of Gabriel Attal’s popularity from his nomination before the inevitable disappointment of discovering that the new government is pretty much like the old government but for the absence of a few (not always) familiar faces and the presence of a couple of new hopefuls. These ritual reshufflings are soon forgotten even by journalists, who are pretty much the only people to take much of an interest in them, and then only out of professional duty.

In any case, the pros have already rehearsed all that can be said at this date about Gabriel Attal. He is the most popular politician in the country, which isn’t saying much. He is the youngest prime minister in the history of the Fifth Republic. He’s gay, Jewish, young, glib, and a devotee of Macron, whom he resembles not only physically but also politically, in that nobody can say what his most fundamental commitments are. Hence he is characterized as a “pragmatist,” that is, a chameleon who will do whatever it takes without too many états d’âme.

The immediate chore is to prevent the RN from running away with the European Parliament elections in five months. Presumably, this feat is to be accomplished by doubling down on the abaya ban that made him such a popular education minister. If this is the political calculus, the Renaissance strategists had better lubricate their slide rules. The Le Penists’ recent advances cannot and will not be reversed by such symbolic hand-waving.

Rather than propose a program, Attal has promised to “tell the truth” and “act without waiting.” This certainly sounds better than “lie and temporize,” but it’s going to take a bit more to repair the fractures in the Renaissance ranks due to the immigration reform debacle. If Macron hopes to regenerate the movement that began as En Marche!, he will need more than the hologram of himself that he has now projected, Mélenchon-style, as his prime minister.

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1 Comment

  • As you say, the appointment of Attal and the rightward shift of the ministerial team with the inclusion of Dati and Vautrin is clearly designed to weaken the appeal of the RN.

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