A series of short posts highlighting interesting points arising during the final countdown to the French presidential election.
(I) – Storm in a “Whirlpool”
It’s what we call “l’entre deux tours” (between the two rounds) of the French presidential election. And I can just sit back behind my computer and relax. All I have to do is not forget to vote next Sunday. Or is it the Sunday after-next? Maybe I should check that out, just to be on the safe side. The turn-out in the Netherlands was just over 50%, which is not bad, considering most of us Frenchies have been here for donkeys years, and we’re beginning to feel quite Dutch about the whole thing. What really surprised me, is that Marine Le Pen, the extreme-right-wing candidate, did manage to get 3% of the vote. Now, who the hell voted for her? I mean, seriously, would you vote for someone who wants to destroy the very thing that allows you to live here?
On Wednesday, Marine Le Pen set a trap for Emmanuel Macron, her centrist opponent, hoping that he would fall and break a leg. She paid a surprise visit to striking workers at the Whirlpool plant, in the northern town of Amiens. Furthermore, she made damn sure that the press new about it. Macron was, in fact, having a meeting with the unions of the very same plant, only a few kilometres away, but knew nothing of Le Pen’s visit to the plant. The Whirlpool plant is threatened with closure following the announcement of a relocation in Poland.
Macron had no choice but to throw himself in the lion’s den and face up to an angry mob of workers threatened with redundancy. He visited the plant in the afternoon and, to his credit, got out of the trap without really being wounded. Although the furious workers had a good old go at him for forty minutes, they didn’t manage to rip his shirt off. That’s more than can be said for the director of human resources at Air-France, who faced an equally angry crowd, in 2015.
It won’t be the last time that she tries to embarrass him because lacking feasible policies, Marine Le Pen has got plenty of other qualities, demagogy being one of them. It’s just a pity that demagogy doesn’t create jobs. Well, sorry love, but that’s life…
In fact, I do have a feeling that the trap back-fired on Le Pen, because Macron just about showed her up. The French people saw Le Pen in her true colours, which appeared to be blue, white and red, but were really tinged with the dark colours of bigotry and demagogy. As for Macron, he showed qualities that may give us insights as to what sort of president he would be, if elected. He showed courage and, above all, honesty. That’s something that is rare enough in politics, not to go unnoticed.
I have not come here to carry out demagogy or to make selfies – Emmanuel Macron, Amiens 2017
With me, this plant will not shut down, even if that means nationalisation – Marine Le Pen, Amiens 2017
Marine Le Pen spent just a few minutes with the workforce but made sure she got plenty of publicity. As for what she said, what would international companies think of France re-nationalising its industry. Nationalisation is a concept of the past and is equivalent of admitting defeat. Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands are doing quite well without nationalisation, thank you very much.
As for Emmanuel Macron, it took quite some guts to directly confront the unhappy workforce of the plant. But who would say it was wrong of him to have had a detailed meeting with their union representatives, who, unless I am mistaken, are democratically elected to represent the workforce. He made no promises to the employees at Whirlpool, concluding that the answer to their problems was far from simple: “the answer doesn’t lie in the suppression of globalisation, or the suppression of borders.” That was something that Le Pen didn’t allude to, being too busy using the media that she once denounced, and making selfies. She is determined to make voters see her as someone who is close to the people, in contrast with the distant elite. The question remains, how populist can she get?