Wednesday, June 21, 2017

La droite déconstruite par les Constructifs

Thierry Solère has formed a new group in the National Assembly, Les Constructifs. This consummates the fracture on the right. Or, rather, one of the fractures. The usual dance of ambitions will ensure that other fissures deepen as well. Baroin vs. Wauquiez is one. The Juppéistes have already merged with the Macronistes, while Solère merely declares himself and his faction Macron-compatible.

Re Solère, here's an interesting tidbit from Wikipedia: "Thierry Solère y porte le surnom de Chihuahua donné par Isabelle Balkany afin de décrire, selon elle, son comportement attentiste et intéressé auprès de Jean Sarkozy, alors fils du président de la République."

Movement at Last in EU?

Angela Merkel is reportedly open to Macron's suggestion that what the EU needs is a common budget and finance minister. The details matter, of course, but this would mark a huge step forward and give Macron the early success he needs to keep his momentum going. Meanwhile, the Times reports that Laurent Berger is actively seeking compromise with Macron on labor-market reform. One is tempted to reply, What else is new? The CFDT is always ready for compromise. Still, it's another positive sign. As I wrote in my Foreign Affairs piece, the atmosphere has changed. There's a readiness to experiment that has been absent for a while. Pourvu que ça dure.

Blessing in Disguise

Has Macron ceased to walk on water? First he lost his right-hand man, Ferrand. Now he has lost the Old Man of the Center, Bayrou, the man who claims to have put him where he is today. And his Good Government renewal effort might seem to have become mired in a swamp of petty corruption.

But that would be a superficial reading of the situation. Actually, he has managed, without wielding the knife himself, to rid himself of a potential troublemaker. Bayrou was already acting like a man who imagined himself to possess more power than he actually had. He had exacted a significant price for his support, more deputies than the weight of his party merited. The 42 MoDem deputies will still matter in a legislature not as heavily tilted toward REM as predicted. But the situation is probably more manageable with a weakened Bayrou than with a Bayrou with influence over both justice and European affairs.

The balance of power in the government has now shifted considerably to the right, however. We do not yet know who will replace Bayrou, Sarnez, and Goulard, but the choice will say a lot about the future direction of the Philippe government.

One unfortunate consequence of the Bayrou mess is that Marine Le Pen is now free and clear. Whatever MoDem did with its parliamentary assistants, Le Pen can now claim, with perfect justice, that she was only doing what the others did. "Clarification" seems to be the watchword of the day. It's time for the EU to clarify what if any rules apply to the use of personnel paid by it ostensibly to serve as parliamentary assistant to MEPs.