The “yellow vests” won’t let Emmanuel Macron take back control

The “yellow vests” won’t let Emmanuel Macron take back control, by Pauline Bock.

In December, when the president made budget concessions to address the social and economic suffering felt by the working and lower middle classes and promised a dialogue with the movement, it may have appeared that he had the situation under control.

But after more than a month of mobilisation, none of the yellow vests’ demands were met — there was no true re-evaluation of the minimum wage; the wealth tax was not reinstated; and Macron powered through with a smile.

Meanwhile, when police forces organised their own strike to protest against their working conditions, an effort called the “blue vests”, their salaries were increased within a day. …

Having pretended to make reasonable concessions, Macron’s government is now free to brand those protesters who keep marching “agitators” wanting “extreme violence”, and to demand that they stop. But you don’t engage in a “great national debate” with the most important social movement in decades by calling them thugs, unless you’re planning on the talks going sour.  …

Scenes from last week

The longer the movement goes on, the angrier protesters become and the more they understand that Macron doesn’t want to budge and thinks he can get away with it, the greater the likelihood of violent episodes. The president’s gamble isn’t guaranteed to work: while the yellow vests are still backed by 55 per cent of the population, Macron and his government’s policies are opposed by 75 per cent.

Social discontent is spreading. Teachers are mobilising (and planning to award the highest mark to all their students, which is unlikely to be unpopular), hospital staff and many public services are on alert mode, with local emergency services striking through Christmas.

The elite is clueless, à la 1789.

Reader Bob:

The article confirms the reports of protestors camped outside in many country areas. The latest French polling has Le Pen ahead of Macron and this article suggests that 55% support the “gilets jaunes”.

Looks like Macron trying to be a tough guy is going to lead to quite a confrontation. The teachers awarding top marks to all students is quite amusing and I suppose Macron will need to fire them all. I wonder what his wife would think of that!

I thought the use of Cummings’s Brexit slogan in the headline to this article was an interesting choice and maybe it will become the most over-used phrase in 2019. The New Statesman is normally left leaning so it’s quite a compliment to reuse a slogan devised by a Tory spin doctor.

Reader Philip:

It is not yet a revolution, but the Macron could well turn it into one. To describe GJ as “agitators stirring up insurrection” when they have the support of the vast majority of the French public displays a haughtiness of De Gaulle proportions. The difference is that De Gaulle had deserved high stature.

hat-tip Bob