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He has been more circumspect when it comes to dealing with the country’s second religion. Hints of a major presidential speech on the role of Islam have come to nothing. Macron once mused that he wished to stop foreign imams from being imported into France, but apart from that he has had little to say. This silence embarrasses his followers, since in the absence of any direction from the leader they are unable to develop a point of view. The foot soldiers of the REM, many of them former Socialist councillors, have to await Macron’s pronouncements in order to find out what they think.

In the event of another terrorist outrage, the right-wing opposition will have the field to themselves in expressions of public fury, and the embryonic alliance between the conservatives and Front National will be strengthened. The new leader of the conservative party, Les Républicains, Laurent Wauquiez, is advocating policies on crime and immigration that attract Front National voters, and electoral trade-offs at constituency level are under discussion.

This insouciance about alienating both left-wing and right-wing voters might seem to weaken Macron, but it could also be part of his five-year strategy. In dumping the Left he will attract more centrists, and in pushing the conservatives further to the right he will draw the moderate Right behind him. The centre has been the weak point in organised political opinion since 1958. If Macron manages to rebuild it, he will have provided himself with a powerbase that could ensure he wins a second term.

Another area in which Macron shadows de Gaulle is in his attitude to the media and the press. De Gaulle could not control the printed press, but he ruled television with an iron fist. The daily news bulletins on the only channel then available were under his control and if he chose to address the nation he monopolised the airtime at will. His press conferences were an innovation. They were held at regular intervals in the Elysée Palace, under a blaze of television lights, with 800 journalists and diplomats crammed into rows of little gilt seats, facing the stage. After a suitable delay de Gaulle emerged from behind a curtain and everyone stood up. The president then invited questions, totally ignored them and gave his pre-scripted announcements. One cartoonist depicted him saying, “I think I heard someone at the back not ask the question which I will now answer.” The performance went on for two hours.

Macron has tried to achieve a similar result by different means, and with less success. In one of the first statements issued after his election he announced that the regular presidential press conference had been abolished “because the minds of journalists do not work in the same way as my own”. This priceless piece of conceit was allowed to pass, but the only televised press interview he has accorded to date turned into an unpleasant row, with Macron aggressively confronting two hostile questioners, showing off his rapidity of thought — but also revealing his disdain for the process of debate.
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June 10th, 2018
3:06 PM
The "X" have ruled for long enough to forget that the Battle of the Palace of the Martyrs was not the finish of Empire-building, but only a setback for the losers. This time the invasion is all but complete and just awaits the end-game.

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