Macron reshuffles cabinet, not policies

Emmanuel Macron © Getty images
Macron: a clumsy reshuffle

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, reshuffled his cabinet on Tuesday in the face of “plummeting approval ratings”, says Zachary Young on Politico. The resignation of his interior minister, Gérard Collomb, on 3 October – the third minister to go in as many months – “added to an impression of mounting disarray”.

This wasn’t helped by a reshuffle that “dragged on for 13 days” with five candidates reportedly refusing ministerial posts. Collomb has been replaced by Christophe Castaner, the erstwhile head of Macron’s La République En Marche! party. In total, eight new faces were brought in and a further six cabinet ministers have switched portfolios.

Overall, this was a “cautious reshuffle”, says Ben Hall in the Financial Times, “designed less to relaunch” the presidency than to preserve a “political balance between former socialists and moderate conservatives vying for influence”. More generally, the message that accompanied it is that Macron is “not for turning” when it comes to his ambitious reform agenda, says The Times. This makes sense.

Although his popularity ratings have slumped to around 33%, this owes more to “disaffection with his style” – he is seen as arrogant – than his policies, for which polls suggest public support. He has already pushed through “substantial reforms” of the labour market, tax system and railways without triggering mass street protests and strikes. This is just as well, since many reforms are “decades overdue”. National debt is expected to hit 98.6% of GDP this year, growth is 1.7% and unemployment is at 9.1%.

Macron, who now plans to tackle the benefits and pension system, will be hoping that earlier reforms bear fruit soon, adds Hall. His problem is that he is a newcomer who, so far, has failed to define a “coherent political vision” which supports his “neither left nor right” slogan. Unfairly, he is widely seen as “a president for the rich”. That needs to change.