President Macron’s expensive tat
The French leader is resorting to some desperate measures in a drive to make money.
As this column has in the past documented, former prime minister Tony Blair set a new standard for cashing in on the prestige of his office once he no longer occupied it. But even Blair would have baulked at flogging T-shirts and mugs to profit from his public profile. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is not so shy.
Not only has he thrown open the doors of the lyse Palace to tourists to raise a few bob, he's also "launched a range of merchandise to help fund much-needed repairs to his official residence", says Damien Sharkov in Newsweek.
True, the idea here is that the goods are tied to the office of the president, rather than any individual, and all revenue will go to the upkeep of the historic lyse Palace rather than directly lining Macron's pockets. Still, many of the goods are nevertheless directly linked to the glorification of the current occupant, including several "emblazoned with Macron's face".
These include a poster with Macron's official portrait, a colouring poster with Macron and his wife in the lyse, and a T-shirt featuring the president's silhouette "leaping in celebration of France's triumph at the World Cup". Appropriately enough there are also macarons on sale, made by chocolatier and pastry chef Pierre Herm.
It's not a good look, says Pauline Bock in The Guardian. While the shop admittedly "promotes French-made products", which is one of Macron's "missions", it is "nonetheless extremely tone deaf". The tat is also "outrageously priced". The three gold bracelets, inscribed with libert,galit,fraternit, for €250 each, take the biscuit. For a man often lampooned as "president of the rich", a €250 "equality" bracelet made of gold is not very subtle.
There's also something ironic about Macron using his face to flog themed tat at a time when his administration is supported by a "dwindling number of people", says Peter Conradi in The Times. After 16 months in office, Macron's approval rating this month slumped to 23%.
Nevertheless, there remain some fans willing to fork out hard cash. One person interviewed "spent more than €100 on merchandise, including two T-shirts decorated with Macron slogans that he and his wife, Vronique, 51, planned to sport at a fancy-dress party".
One person who could teach President Macron a thing or two about the perils of trying to make money out of an unpopular presidency is Ivanka Trump. A few weeks ago, the US president's daughter announced she was shutting down her namesake fashion brand, reports Rachel Abrams in The New York Times.
Although she hasn't been directly involved in the company for over a year, there have been calls for boycotts of her products "and major retailers like Marshalls, Nordstrom and TJ Maxx have removed her clothing and accessories from store shelves".
Perhaps Macron should let her run the lyse shop. Reports show despite these headaches she raked in more than $5m in earnings from her brand last year.
Tabloid money dear old Footie will be spinning in his grave
Model Holly Willoughby announced on her Instagram account that she is "super proud to be an M&S ambassador", and has picked out a range of "must-haves" that will soon grace the stores of the high-street retailer. Meanwhile, Heidi Klum, also a model, has launched her own range of clothing for discount supermarket chain Aldi. But I shan't be stampeding to the high street to snap them up, says Clair Woodward in the Sunday Express.
The clothes they're plugging are "rather dull" lumpy jumpers, an unexciting white blouse and a beige trench coat. Perhaps these are the things I'm supposed to like, as a woman in her 50s. But I won't be making space in my wardrobe for anything these ladies are trying to sell me. Instead of touting ranges that should be called "I've Completely Given Up", Holly and Heidi should be using their influence to encourage manufacturers to make nicer clothes for the over-40s.
"Dead men can't sue, or Michael Foot would be rich from this cowardly Soviet spy smear," says Kevin Maguire in the Daily Mirror. The former Labour leader has been accused in an article in The Times of being a Soviet informant. The charge is unfounded and utterly contemptible. "I knew dear old Footie and he was forever fearing that Britain would be imperilled.
He supported Nato and he backed a task force to liberate the Falklands. Foot was a fierce critic of Moscow's then Communist empire. He lacerated Stalin over his pact with Hitler and condemned Soviet suppression of workers' rebellions and uprisings spies are not within Labour but within British spooks' own ranks."
We shouldn't be surprised that the TUC is waxing lyrical about robots in its recent report on the future of work, says Ruth Sutherland in the Daily Mail. No less an authority than Karl Marx claimed automation would lift the masses from their drudgery. John Maynard Keynes predicted automation would lead to people working no more than 15 hours a week. "Three hours a day is quite enough," he said.
But history tells us that automation doesn't work like that. The idea that robots will do away with the need to work is a fallacy: they won't take all the jobs, they will shift people from one type of work to another. Economies are dynamic, and if robots add to productivity and growth there will be more jobs for humans, not fewer.