Tensions are running high within the Ayrault government. Arnaud Montebourg refused to share a couch with his prime minister and other senior colleagues the other day, despite the presence of cameras to record the scene. Now Pierre Moscovici has given signs of displeasure at the PM's proposal to make changes at the finance ministry in furtherance of his new proposal to complete a thorough overhaul of the French tax system by 2015.
Make no mistake: a thorough tax overhaul is essential. The government's approach to budget-balancing by laying on new taxes, and particularly regressive taxes like the VAT, has been counter-productive. A tax revolt is brewing. I heard plenty of grumbling about tax hikes during my recent trip to Paris (the atmosphere seemed eerily familiar to my American antennae). But it's surprising that the initiative seems to be coming from Ayrault, whose forte, if he has one, is not economic policy. As usual, there is considerable lack of clarity about what the plan is, who initiated it, and even whether or to what extent the president supports it. Illegibility is a hallmark of the current regime.
It may be that there is a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvering in anticipation of a remaniement. Or it may just be another reflection of the apparent confusion that has sapped confidence in Hollande's leadership.