Hollande the unflappable has kept his cool as the bad news poured in: first Aulnay, now Air France. Major layoffs will not make his life easier. Suspicious minds will naturally think that both firms, which have been in difficulty for quite some time, may have delayed their announcements until after the presidential election. In any case, the problem is now Hollande's to deal with. Michel Sapin sees unemployment back to 10% by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Hollande's pet project, the "generational contract," in which a firm will receive a tax exemption for hiring a young person to be tutored by an older employee nearing retirement, won't generate much employment, according to the OFCE. It's one of those symbolic gadgets that politicians like.
Not that symbolism is unimportant. I've just read Franz Olivier-Giesbert's Derniers carnets. For Giesbert, symbolism is everything. Or, anyway, symbolism plus budget discipline and character, with considerable overlap in the latter two categories. The book has the usual Giesbert defects and qualities: astonishing quotes--so astonishing that one suspects half of them are made up, especially as certain tics of Giesbertian language appear frequently in the mouths of his subjects, portraits etched sometimes in acid and other times bathed in embarrassing sentiment, intense likes and dislike, and occasionally shrewd judgments. Surprisingly, Hollande wins his approval, perhaps in reaction against Sarkozy, whom he seems truly to detest while granting him high marks for political skill: "genius without talent," he says of Sarko, while Hollande has "talent without genius." A nice formula, even if it leaves all the important questions unanswered.
Still, one might make the case that Hollande's detachment is just the right attitude for the difficult times ahead. There will be no promises of fetching jobs with his teeth or bludgeoning recalcitrant opponents into submission. Indeed, those champions of the working class, Le Pen and Mélenchon, have been strangely silent since the election, despite the blows that have fallen upon their blue-collar constituencies. Perhaps they're waiting for the rentrée, on the theory that no one in France pays any attention to anything in July and August anyway.
Juppé and Bayrou also meet with Giesbert's approval. An odd trio indeed.