Benalla is back!
Médiapart has given all of us France-watchers a fantastic New Year’s gift, revealing today in an interview with Alexandre Benalla that the disgraced former security consultant for Emmanuel Macron claims still to be in regular contact with the president. The newspaper had reported just a few days prior that Benalla had been travelling on diplomatic passports in Africa, and now he is claiming that he has never been officially fired from the Elysée despite the scandals that broke this summer over his having roughed up May Day protesters while following a police contingent. Apparently Macron is still asking Benalla for his advice on current affairs, including the gilets jaunes protests. Aside from remaining an immensely entertaining saga in French politics—Benalla apparently travelled with the Macrons on their vacations, and was even rumored to be Macron’s secret lover—this is a significant revelation, if nothing else because it helps show the extent to which Macron has failed to learn lessons from the gilets jaunes movement. Despite a rejection of his governing style that could not possibly clearer, Macron still chooses to keep close and rely heavily for advice on the same small circle of young “technocrats,” including Benalla and the énarque Elysée secretary Alexis Kohler, who have been with him since the beginning of En Marche! And despite the growing anger against police violence that has unified the otherwise heterogeneous gilets jaunes, Macron has not seen fit to put real distance between himself and an advisor caught in the most blatant abuse of the right to protest. None can say exactly where things will stand with the protests going into the new year, but we likely haven’t heard the last of M. Benalla.
Photo Credit: Police92, Alexandre Benalla, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.
It seems to me the Benalla story is the classic case of someone who finds himself in almost constant close proximity to a candidate, and makes his luck out of it. Out of nowhere, the servant attains the coveted access, notwithstanding deep personal flaws of which the candidate is unaware, blinded by the “loyalty” of his servant. (See the tale of NYC’s former mayor, Rudy Giuliani and his former chauffeur, NYPD sergeant Bernard Kerik. However, to take as gospel all Benalla chose to tell Mediapart is a mistake. While it pleases those who choose to believe anything that would make Macron look bad, it is to be considered that Benalla finds himself under investigation now, not just for violence against protesters, and impersonating a police officer; but also for misuse of a diplomatic passport, and pretending, on trips to Africa using the passport, to have the President’s ear. An alternative interpretation of the Mediapart interview is that Benalla, now in very hot water, wants to leverage his story with a view to a lucrative book contract. As part of this latest episode in the Benalla saga, feeding the press outrageous stories designed to get their attention –in the latter of which he has, to some extent, succeeded.