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Macron shines while the Men of Shadows lurk

April 25, 2017

Vive La République! The people of France have spoken, and have so far proved resistant to the demagogue. Despite the best efforts of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, an army of bots of indeterminate origin and a motley crew of agents provocateurs armed with knives, trucks and AK-47s, Marine Le Pen looks set to fall at the final hurdle to the centrist Emmanuel Macron.

That would seem to be the case anyway, unless the forces of discord have some scandal up their sleeves that might yet derail Macron.

I have no idea how he will fare as president, and I suspect most people in France haven’t either. My French correspondent Fils De Danton, who inveterate 59steps readers will recall railing against Sarkozy in highly scatological terms a few years ago, has declined to comment this time, at least in writing. Last time I spoke to him, though, he told me that he had a low opinion of Macron, though for reasons I don’t clearly recall. Wishy-washy and opportunistic were words I do remember.

Perhaps Fils de Danton was too busy prepping for the apocalypse, burying his cognac in a mountain cave somewhere, along with a year’s supply of jambon and saucisse. I’m hoping he will emerge soon to dispense his wisdom.

Back in the UK, the Daily Mail, true to form as the standard bearer of the reactionary right, has a huge picture of Le Pen on the front page, and a smaller one of Macron, as though she was the winner and not him. We are told that this was a revolution, because the main parties have been displaced. But the Mail was unable to crow about the impending dissolution of the European Union. Macron’s election will actually strengthen it, leaving the United Kingdom further out on a limb.

Macron is certainly an unlikely revolutionary. It may be surprising that the socialists and the right-wing UMP have been beaten out of this election, but the man of the hour looks very like the men of previous hours. He’s a graduate of the two grandes écoles that normally churns out the political elite – Sciences Po and the École Nationale d’Administration. He’s a former banker, civil servant and minister. You could argue that he has considerably more experience in government than Barack Obama when the latter took office.

As for Le Pen, she has only marginally improved on the benchmark her father set when he got to the second round back in 2002. Assuming she doesn’t make the final hurdle this time, she will probably have another go in 2022. Whether the other demogogues will have been routed by then remains to be seen.

All of this sound and fury coincides with the screening in the UK of Spin, a French political thriller about duelling spin doctors at the commanding heights of the French state. Simon Kapita is the doctor-in-chief to the President, a tetchy soul called Marjorie. We in Britain might snigger at the name, just as we would if our Queen changed her name to Eric. But I’m sure his surname is quite normal in France.

The said Marjorie is coming to the end of his term. All around him unscrupulous rivals, aided by their spin doctors, are manoeuvring for position in the upcoming elections. He is labouring under one or two disadvantages. His wife is mentally unstable, which makes her something of a loose cannon. He’s having an affair with one of his ministers, who herself is on the media radar because of suspected corruption.

In the last episode, his prime minister resigns, to be replaced by his thuggish minister of the interior. There’s a hilarious scene during the official handover, conducted in public with cordial words spoken by both men. They pose for the cameras, all smiles and apparent chit-chat, while the one promises not to reveal compromising information about the other in return for his support in the forthcoming election. It seems that in France the politicians haven’t heard of lip-reading.

Kapita is suffering from post-traumatic stress after witnessing the assassination of a right-wing politician in a TV studio. Marjorie has a permanently worried expression that softens only when he falls into the arms of his ministerial squeeze. Little does he know that his affair, and her dubious dealings, are about to be exposed, thanks to efforts of a rival spin doctor. We wait to see how the traumatised Kapita deals with the fallout.

Spin is good clean fun, so long as you don’t object to politicians being assassinated every once in a while. What’s more, it’s not so implausible given the scandales that frequently afflict leading French politicians. Presidents Mitterrand, Giscard, Chirac, Sarkozy and – in the recent election – former prime minister Fillon have all been tainted either by accusations of financial impropriety or by various sexual shenanigans. Not to mention Dominique Strauss Kahn, whose alleged liking for prostitutes and rough sex derailed his presidential ambitions.

All of which makes our politicians seem rather tame, if you exclude John Major cavorting with Edwina Curry, which at the time seemed more ridiculous than dramatic. It’s hard to imagine Theresa May taking back-handers or having secret assignations with one of her insipid ministers. Boris Johnson has form, at least on the priapic front, but his antics are the stuff of comedy rather than affairs of state.

Still, my wife and I will have several more episodes of Spin to amuse us while the election campaign churns on at home. The French title is Les Hommes de l’Ombre, which translates as men of shadows. Presumably political communications is a male preserve across the channel. We wait to see if in real life the shadowy men have some surprises in store, either in France or in the UK. If so, I suspect that it will be the genuinely shadowy figures rather than the spin doctors who will be trying to turn the tables.

Step forward the FSB, the CIA, the military-industrial complex, the Bilderberg Group, the half-human reptiles and all the other usual suspects beloved of the guild of conspiracy theorists.

The truth is out there, folks. We wait with bated breath.

From → Film, France, Media, Politics, UK

  1. Ronnie Spraggs permalink

    Such damn good writing. Makes no difference whether one agrees with the content 100% or not (Though I almost always do). Good writing is good writing, with a value in and of itself. Gold Dust in fact, even in a WWW world of zillions of self-published blogs. Sorry to say it, but it’s a Pearls Before Swine job I reckon, and I should know because I’m just about the piggiest little piggy on the whole Welsh farm. Thanks. Very fine reading & reason indeed.

  2. You’re too kind Ronnie. I happen to be a lifelong swine lover. I have a squadron of them flying up a wall at home. Much more intelligent than dogs. They will have their revenge on us in the next life! S

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