Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Libération

It’s over. Finally. Sunday’s election was the eighth round of voting over the past seven months (LR primary, PS primary, presidential election, legislative—all in two ballots, of course, and with me naturally voting in every one). No more elections until the European in May 2019. As Arthur Goldhammer has an instant analysis up on the Foreign Affairs website—incisive comme d’hab’, that I could have signed myself—I will make just a few comments on Sunday’s vote.

First, the size of La République en Marche’s victory was smaller than expected, surprisingly so in fact. Projections after the 1st round had REM/MoDem winning as many as 470 seats (over 80% of the total), with 400 on the low end. For a party of neophytes that won all of 32% of the 1st round vote—and with over half the electorate abstaining—even the low end would have been excessive. A newly elected president of the republic should be able to govern, but a super majority and with a marginalized opposition is not a good thing for a democracy: it bears out the perverse effects of the two-round, single-member constituency system and undermines the legitimacy of the action of the government if the latter’s poll numbers go negative.

With 350 seats, REM/MoDem has a comfortable, though not crushing, majority—and one sizable enough so that it—and Emmanuel Macron—will have no excuses for failure. And as all the other parties overperformed expectations (even the PS), everyone is reasonably content for the moment. Moreover, the fact that the combined left took some 70 seats—objectively speaking, a calamitous result—means that it will have the minimum number of deputies (60) required to refer a projet de loi to the Constitutional Council—so as to rule on its constitutionality—one possible example being the integration of key measures of the état d’urgence into ordinary legislation, which PM Édouard Philippe’s government—and with the Élysée remote-controlling—has intimated that it may propose. It was uncertain that there would even be 60 deputies of the left to do this, an eventuality that would have reduced it to total impotence. Fortunately that won’t be the case.

Second comment, on the record abstention rate (57%). This does not undermine the legitimacy of REM’s majority but does signify that President Macron does not have a mandate—a term thankfully not used here—to enact any piece of legislation he may fancy and with minimal debate or concertation with social actors, notably on reforming the Code du Travail. As this is a centerpiece of Macron’s program, reform will indeed happen and via ordonnance, as promised, but it will, politically speaking, necessitate the acquiescence of at least part of the trade union movement (the CFDT, CFTC, maybe FO; the CGT and SUD will surely oppose it no matter what). Not that the unions are more representative of the masses than is the National Assembly—they’re not—but when it comes to defending laws that offer employees some protection against being fired from their jobs for no good reason, they will have the support of public opinion (and including voters on the right). So if labor law reform happens in a context of conflict, the inevitable strikes and demonstrations will ensue and the government will descend into unpopularity, which will not be good for Macron or for France. So he will hopefully take the high abstention rate as a signal to proceed prudently and modestly on issues which are sure to generate intense opposition.

The fact is, a sizable number of the 8.9 million voters who cast ballots for REM/MoDem candidates Sunday—and which included me—did so as a pragmatic choice, though not with excessive enthusiasm. Among voters on the center-left to the center-right of the political spectrum, there is satisfaction and a general optimism—as reflected in public opinion polls but that I also hear from everyone with whom I talk who’s not on the radical left—but also some caution—as one may see in Macron’s own approval rating, which is positive though not hugely so.

Third comment, on the REM deputies, who will constitute the largest parliamentary group and with a majority in the National Assembly on their own: Going down the list of the 308, I recognized almost none of the names. In point of fact, not a single REM deputy has a national reputation. Not one is a household name. Three REM deputies who defected from EELV—François de Rugy, Barbara Pompili, Laurence Vichnievsky—are known by those who closely follow politics (Vichnievsky more as a magistrate who’s taken on high-profile cases) but have not figured in the top-tier of the political class. Richard Ferrand (who will probably head the parliamentary group) and Christophe Castaner were third-tier personalities in the PS—not known outside their constituencies—before they joined Macron. Few of the deputies know the National Assembly or have any experience crafting legislation. And they don’t know one another. It will be interesting to see how the REM parliamentary group is held together and discipline is imposed.

As for the 42 MoDem deputies, one in particular stands out: the énarque Jean-Louis Bourlanges, who is well-known in politics and in the intelligentsia, as he’s been a regular over the decades on highbrow talk-shows and the op-ed pages of the elite press. He won’t be a godillot, that’s for certain.

And who will be president of the National Assembly? This is the fourth-ranking position in the French state and that, in the Fifth Republic at least, has always been held by a senior politician. No one in REM fits the bill, nor, for that matter, in LR/UDI or the PS. Most LR heavyweights didn’t run for reelection—on account of the law on the non-cumul des mandats—or were defeated. Top LR/UDI deputies: Éric Woerth, Éric Ciotti, Christian Jacob, Thierry Solère (Macron-compatible, who may form an independent parliamentary group), Jean-Christophe Lagarde. Bof. As for the PS, it was a wipe-out. The best-known PS deputies still standing are Olivier Faure, Delphine Batho, and the Macron-compatible Stéphane Le Foll (as for Manuel Valls, he’s out of the party and has the distinction of being, in one poll at least, the most disliked politician in France, even more so than Marine Le Pen). Ça ne pisse pas loin. And how many EELV deputies are there? Not one. All gone.

The most outspoken opposition group will surely be Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise, which, as one is likely aware, did well on Sunday, sending not only JLM to the Palais Bourbon (for the first time) but also other leading FI personalities (Alexis Corbière, Éric Coquerel, Clémentine Autain, François Ruffin…). If JLM deigns to admit the ten PCF deputies, this will make his parliamentary group, at 27, the radical left’s largest since the Georges Marchais era. I am no fan of JLM, as is well-known, but think it good that he and his associates will have a tribune in the National Assembly. And likewise for Marine Le Pen and the seven other frontiste deputies, though who are not sufficiently numerous to form a parliamentary group.

It’s too bad Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet lost. One is, however, gratified by the defeat of three of LR’s most pro-Putin, pro-Syrian Baathist deputies: Nicolas Dhuicq—who, if one remembers, was a conduit for anti-Macron Russian propaganda—Thierry Mariani, and Jacques Myard.

À suivre.

Le Monde

Three percentages to note in regard to Sunday’s vote: 51, 32, 79. The first (51%) was the abstention rate. This is a record for a French legislative election: in the Fifth Republic and probably all of French history. The previous abstention record was in 2012—43 and 44% in the 1st and 2nd rounds, respectively—and the one prior to that was in the 2007 2nd round (40%). French voters used to take their parliamentary elections seriously, though now less and less. As for why, this is the perverse consequence of the quinquennat and electoral calendar. More on that in a minute.

The second number (32) is the percentage of the vote obtained by candidates of Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (REM) and its MoDem ally. REM, as one may be aware, was created ex nihilo in the spring of 2016 and with its founder, Macron, unknown to the public three years ago today; and in Sunday’s vote, the great majority of REM’s candidates were likewise unknown to most of those casting ballots for them. As for MoDem—which would cease to exist in the absence of its founder-president, François Bayrou—it received precisely 1.77% of the national vote in the 2012 legislatives and sent all of two deputies (of 577) to the Palais Bourbon, one of whom later quit the party. In terms of vote power, MoDem has not been a heavyweight in the ten years of its existence. So REM/MoDem’s first place, 32% finish is impressive indeed—and unprecedented for formations that, in the previous election, did not exist or represented next to nothing.

The third number (79) is the percentage of seats in the National Assembly that REM/MoDem may end up with after next Sunday’s 2nd round run-offs. This is the high-end prediction, of REM/MoDem taking 455 seats of the 577, with the lower prediction 400 seats (a mere 69%). A blowout in either case.

Sunday’s result had been expected—the polls, as usual in France, got it right—but it’s stunning nonetheless, above all for the complete collapse of the Socialist Party (more on which below) and the outright replacement of the political class. Voters have been telling pollsters for years that they want a renouvellement of the political class; well, they’re now going to get it big time. The reason for the outsized majority REM is certain to obtain next Sunday is due to France’s two-round, single-member constituency system, which considerably—sometimes hugely—inflates the majority of the winning party or coalition—and correspondingly penalizes the losers. It’s a terrible mode de scrutin for this reason alone. E.g. in the 1993 legislative election the conservative RPR-UDF coalition took 43% of the 1st round vote and ended up with 83% of the seats after the 2nd. In no first-past-the-post system (e.g. UK, USA, Canada) would the result be so distorted. This perverse effect could be at least partially rectified by introducing a dose of proportionality into the system, which Macron pledged to do during the presidential campaign. On verra bien. If this does happen, it will probably be on the order of 20 or 25% of the seats, though 50% would be ideal.

On the high abstention rate, along with the near inevitability of Sunday’s result, this is, as mentioned above, a consequence of the quinquennat—introduced by constitutional amendment in 2000—and electoral calendar. Since 2002, when the presidential and legislative elections coincidentally happened in quick succession—on account of President Chirac’s dissolution of the National Assembly in 1997—this has become the new norm in French politics. Presidential elections happen every five years and with the legislative elections that ensue five weeks later being a mere formality, with the electorate reflexively giving the newly (re)elected president’s party an outright or working majority. This is in the logic of the Fifth Republic in any case, and is what has happened in the five previous occasions when there were back-to-back presidential and legislative elections. So the legislatives are now an afterthought. After the climax of the 2nd round of the presidential election—the preeminent contest in the French political system—politicians are figuratively out of gas and voters’ interest in electoral politics plummets, and despite the importance of the National Assembly. And the victor is all but known in advance.

This legislative campaign was particularly listless. There were few debates, either nationally or locally, not in my constituency at least. In the latter, the incumbent LR deputy, who is also the mayor of my banlieue, could not run for reelection—thanks to François Hollande’s law on the non cumul des mandats—so he installed a retired 79-year-old university professor and local pol as his anointed successor. Not exactly le renouvellement. The PS candidate—who finished in sixth place on Sunday—is a municipal councilor in a neighboring banlieue and distinctly lacks notoriety. And the REM candidate—who will almost certainly win next Sunday—is utterly unknown in the constituency (I can never remember his name myself). And there were relatively few REM militants (“fans,” or marcheurs, they’re called) in evidence in the markets and at the RER stations, where most leafleting and general contact with voters happens. There was also a dearth of assesseurs at the bureaux de vote, on Sunday as well as in the two rounds of the presidential, indicating a demobilization of the legacy parties and a relatively low level of organization of REM locally.

The collapse of the Socialists: It was expected but still. For the PS and its allies to receive 9.5% of the vote—and finish behind La France Insoumise and the Front National—is probably the final nail in the coffin. One does not shed tears for the PS as a party—or for the electoral repudiation of hacks like Jean-Christophe Cambadélis—but seeing Benoît Hamon and other worthy personalities humiliated in the 1st round was tough. And it is particularly so for the younger generation of future leaders, e.g. Matthias Fekl, who was eliminated, and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who will most certainly be next Sunday. It’s not fair mais c’est comme ça. The PS has been decapitated. It will henceforth not have a single deputy from the Nord, Pas-de-Calais, or Haute-Garonne—which would be akin to, e.g., the Democratic Party losing its entire congressional delegation in Massachusetts and New York state—and has lost decades-long bastions across the country (in the Seine-Maritime, Landes, across the southwest; and it risks losing all but one or two of its constituencies in the Île-de-France). The PS now has no leaders—present or potential—and, with its public money (linked to the number of elected officials) about to dry up, will soon be bereft of financial resources. The PS will likely have to sell or move out of its historic HQ on the Rue de Solférino, which will mark the symbolic, if not actual, death of the party. More importantly, the PS has no coherent message or anything to say to the electorate. Intellectually and programmatically, the Socialists are brain-dead. Merci, François Hollande. And most importantly of all, the party has lost its voters, most of them for good. A sizable portion have moved to REM and won’t be going back to any party that carries the PS label; and a smaller, though not insignificant, number has defected to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s FI. And they won’t be returning either. Parties do die, or, failing that, are reduced to rump factions in the low single digits that ally with larger parties but cannot wage elections on their own. This is no doubt what awaits the PS after next Sunday’s 2nd round.

It has been clear for a while now—and particularly since the primary of the “Belle Alliance Populaire”—that the PS’s two major factions—the social liberals (Hollande, Manuel Valls) and leftists (Hamon, Arnaud Montebourg etc)—can no longer coexist in the same party. This is likewise with the Republican party, which suffered a severe setback on Sunday—notably in its bastions in the Île-de-France and parts of the east—and is now divided more than ever between the hard-rightists (Laurent Wauquiez, sarkozyistes) and Macron-compatible moderate conservatives (juppéistes et al). I’ve been hearing off and on over the past five years from UMP/LR activist students and friends—particularly during the Fillon vs. Copé and Sarkozy vs. Juppé battles—that they could not stand the other faction—for political and programmatic reasons, not just personality—and doubted they could remain in the same party with it. With Macron’s REM set to dominate politics for the next five years, the formal split of LR will likely happen sooner rather than later.

And the Front National: There were visions less than two months ago—by frontistes and others—of the FN sending up to 100 deputies to the Palais Bourbon after June 18th. LOL. Marine Le Pen looks sure to be elected in Hénin-Beaumont but may well be the FN’s sole deputy. The FN will be lucky if four of its candidates win on Sunday. That will, of course, not prevent people from continuing to brandish the FN épouvantail and issue dark warnings of how Marine Le Pen will win the next presidential election if Macron does or does not do this or that. Ouf. Épargne moi. C’est fini, le Front National.

France Inter’s Thomas Legrand, in the conclusion to his political editorial yesterday, summed up well a principal lesson of the 1st round

S’il est important de s’intéresser à la mécanique démocratique qu’un tel résultat implique, il ne faut quand même pas oublier de lire le message des urnes. Il ne s’agit pas seulement de renouvellement désidéologisé mais bien d’une confiance accordée à un homme qui s’est dit pro-européen, social-libéral en économie, progressiste, prônant une société dite bienveillante et d’optimiste. Ces mots peuvent paraître creux, mais toujours est-il que celui qui les a prononcés a largement gagné hier soir. Il n’y a pas d’enthousiasme (le taux de participation en atteste) mais les déclinistes, les souverainistes, les nostalgiques de la France sépia dont on disait qu’ils avaient gagné la guerre culturelle, ne sont pas au rendez-vous. La vraie majorité silencieuse en France qui, finalement s’est exprimée hier (ou s’est abstenue et a donc laissé faire) n’est pas pour le repli et le conservatisme que l’on croyait ambiants… et ce n’est pas le moindre des enseignements d’hier soir.

When the Macron/REM tsunami was announced on Sunday night, I was unsettled by the specter of a National Assembly so dominated by political novices. Over half of the REM candidates have never held elective office and with most of these having never even run for office. We’re dealing here with a party heavily comprised of people who have no experience whatever in politics, at either the retail level or in crafting legislation. And then there have been stories of REM’s rank amateurishness—of both its candidates and marcheurs—that I had been reading and hearing. For the anecdote, a couple of weeks ago I was with friends who live in a tony town in an upscale constituency in Paris’s western banlieue—which contains one downscale municipality—and have been active marcheurs for Macron. As they told me, a well-known community activist and Macron supporter from the downscale part of the constituency proposed her candidacy to REM. She would have been great, so my friends said, in view of her dynamism and diversity profile: the ideal candidate to run against the eternal LR incumbent, who, in addition to being an outspoken member of an LR hard right caucus, is a Bashar al-Assad apologist and male chauvinist pig to boot. But the community activist was rejected by the REM national candidacy commission, in favor of a lawyer from the constituency’s toniest town, who enjoyed no local notoriety and had zero political skills. Her incompetence as a campaigner was such that my macroniste friends said that they could not support her. So why was she chosen? No doubt because she could more easily finance her campaign (all REM candidates having to commit a minimum of €30,000 of their own money up front, to be reimbursed with public funds after the election if they receive over 5% of the vote—which every last one has). As it happens, the lawyer-candidate is, despite her zero political skills, sure to win next Sunday.

Contributing to my initial qualms over the REM tsunami was the specter of a National Assembly comprised of godillots (foot soldiers), of political ingénus approving as one every bill sent down by the Élysée and without debate. And the qualms were multiplied in view of Macron’s monarchical style and post-election rightward tilt on key issues (notably the Code du Travail and state of emergency; more on this later). But I’m a little less concerned now. REM deputies who will be elected next Sunday may be political novices—many though not all—but they are highly educated, professionally accomplished outside the world of politics, and with no a priori reason to act as godillots and approve without substantive debate or critical spirit whatever bill Macron or PM Édouard Philippe submits to them. It’s hard to imagine an assembly comprised of legislators who are, in effect, free agents and with professional options outside politics behaving as a chambre d’enregistrement.

Another thing: the REM candidates come from the center-left, center, and center-right, with the first one in greater number. The majority of candidates with a prior partisan engagement—mainly on the local level, in municipal councils—were in the PS. The members of the REM parliamentary group will probably agree on most issues but there will inevitably be cleavages. The prospect of frondeurs in the REM group is not to be excluded.

On the profile of the REM deputies-to-be, an American friend in Paris posted this on Facebook on Sunday night

Our new legislative representative [will likely be] Alexandre Aïdara. Where I live, in the 6th district of Seine Saint-Denis, abstention was 55 %. If a candidate wins less than 12.5% of votes by registered voters, they fail to qualify. So, former Socialist Justice Minister and longtime Socialist heavy here, Elisabeth Guigou, as she placed third, cannot run next Sunday. Result: Alexandre Aïdara, a brilliant Senegalese man who came to France on a mathematics scholarship, then was motivated to get into politics to fight racial discrimination he experienced here, got into the prestigious ENA (École Nationale d’Administration) and then worked with Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, switched to Macron’s party and ran to represent this district, [finished in first place with] 27 % of the vote. We met him at the farmers’ market a week ago. Affable man… [Not being a citizen] I couldn’t [vote for him] but am very pleased [that he is poised to win next Sunday].

The ethnic diversity of the new National Assembly is likely to be historic. French politics is going to be interesting over the next five years.

In lieu of my own thoughts on the eve of the election—and I have a few—I am linking to two good articles on the general subject. One is Arthur Goldhammer’s pre-election analysis in The Atlantic, just up today, “Macron’s divide and conquer strategy: Can he pull off another election victory?” As usual, I agree with 98.5% of what Art has to say.

The other is a smart enquête in the latest NYT Magazine by freelance journalist Elisabeth Zerofsky, “Can a new generation in the banlieues change French politics?

I’ll have more on the election tomorrow and in the following days.

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below] [6th update below] [7th update below] [8th update below] [9th update below] [10th update below]

How nice to feel good about a British election result. The last two were, needless to say, complete disasters, ça va de soi. I didn’t follow this one too closely until the final week of the campaign, as it seemed clear that Theresa May and the Tories were headed toward a landslide victory. And then there was the opposition. I have not been a fan of Jeremy Corbyn, to put it mildly, mainly for his foreign policy (notably on the Middle East and NATO), ambiguity on Brexit during the referendum campaign, support for activating Article 50, and his general 1970s gauchisme d’une autre époque. He’s much more Jean-Luc Mélenchon than Bernie Sanders. As for his economic policies, though, while some of the proposals may not be realistic, I have not, on the whole, had a problem with the overall thrust—and the Labour Party’s manifesto, reflecting the attitude of the majority of Labour MPs, was far closer to the center than Corbyn’s own views. As for the Liberal Democrats, they were pretty much out of the picture since the 2015 collapse and with party leader Tim Farron an evangelical Christian flake, or so a Lib Dem member friend informed me recently.

So had I been a Brit, I wouldn’t have had anyone to vote for. Until the past week, that is. When Roger Cohen, of all people, makes “[the] case for Jeremy Corbyn,” I read with interest and ponder the argument. And then there was something I read today, about the three big issues that motivated the droves of younger voters who went to the polls to cast their ballots for Labour: the freedom to live and work in Europe, an end to austerity, and much lower tuition fees (now £9000 a year at most universities and slated to rise further under the Tories). I entirely sympathize. And as May and the Tories so richly deserved to be punished and repudiated—for Brexit, austerity, and quite simply everything—I would have, had I been a Brit, finally set aside my distaste of Corbyn and voted Labour.

Emile Chabal, Chancellor’s Fellow in History at the University of Edinburgh, expressed the following thoughts, which I like, on Facebook today

1) Goodness, isn’t democratic politics fun?

2) I was pleasantly wrong about England, especially. Young people carried the Labour Party much further than I thought they could. And those elderly provincials were much less emphatic about Theresa than anyone expected (Canterbury! Warwick and Leamington! Peterborough!)

3) Oh my god, what an own goal for the Maybot! Egg. On. Your. Face.

4) Let’s not get carried away: this was a huge Labour success, but Labour did not win. Big question now is whether Labour can go further than this under current leadership. There are question marks about this, although not nearly as many as there were yesterday. Still, Labour’s gains prove that a positive manifesto can really gain traction.

5) Scotland was doing its own thing – it’s increasingly in a political universe of its own.

6) Whatever else this election shows, it does not say much about Brexit: neither major party made Brexit a priority and neither put forward credible negotiating strategies or plans. If I were a Labour strategist, I’d actually be quite pleased that a weakened Theresa May will have to go into the fire and suffer the consequences. Labour can simply point fingers and laugh, without having to take responsibility.

7) We ignore Northern Ireland at our peril. That applies to the odious DUP’s involvement in the impending government and Brexit.

8) Good riddance UKIP. You never mattered, you certainly don’t now.

9) Another election is very likely. And it will almost certainly return *another* surprise.

Writer-journalist James Meek had this comment on the LRB blog

Corbyn’s extraordinary achievement on 8 June is a joy to savour for many reasons: Britain turns out to be a braver, more tolerant and more hopeful place than it seemed a few days ago; the malign power of the right-wing tabloids is weaker than it seemed; austerity is over and grammar schools are off the agenda.

Corbyn’s achievement was indeed extraordinary, as Labour’s popular vote percentage (40.1) was its third highest since 1970—and the increase in its vote from that of the previous election was the sharpest since 1945. No one foresaw that. But then, the Conservative Party’s 42.3% of the vote was its best since 1983. And the Tories will continue to govern, and with the support of the très droitier DUP—founded by Ian Paisley—which bears a distinct resemblance to the Republican Party across the pond. Donc rien n’est joué.

The bottom line is, of  course, Brexit—an issue that was, incredibly enough, absent from the election campaign (as was the case in 2015). I care about the NHS, university tuition, and all, but, as a non-Brit, Brexit overrides everything. I have been asserting since the referendum that Brexit will ultimately not happen: a “hard” Brexit being so utterly inimical to the interests of the UK, with so much to lose and such enormous consequences; and a “soft” Brexit (e.g. Norwegian model) making no sense, as the UK, in exchange for remaining in the single market, will necessarily have to accept free movement of EU citizens and rulings of the European Court of Justice, in which case it had might as well remain in the EU. Brexit is quite simply crazy, which will become crystal clear to both government and public opinion as the 2019 date butoir approaches, and with a way being found, namely by holding a second referendum, to stop the damn process and rescind Article 50. That’s my intimate conviction in any case. On the matter, John Springford and Simon Tilford of the Centre for European Reform—the top think tank on EU matters—have an analysis on “what does the election result mean for Brexit?”

À propos, in case one missed it, see Simon Tilford’s NYT op-ed of May 29th on “why Brexit will make Britain’s mediocre economy worse.”

C’est tout pour le moment.

UPDATE: Journalist-author Rachel Shabi has a nice op-ed in the NYT on “how Jeremy Corbyn proved the haters wrong.” One little quibble, though. She mentions Corbyn’s accepting the “democratic referendum decision.” There is, in fact, nothing particularly democratic about the instrument of the referendum, and certainly not the one on Brexit, which was not binding and should have never been organized in the first place. The politically courageous thing for Corbyn to have done would have been to ignore the referendum outcome and refused to vote for Article 50 in the parliament.

On the instrument of the referendum, Mai’a K. Davis Cros, who teaches political science at Northeastern University, has an excellent op-ed in The Washington Post, “Don’t be fooled by the U.K. election: There’s nothing democratic about Brexit.”

2nd UPDATE: The Scottish Tories, who won 12 seats from the SNP, plan to break away from the Conservative Party and form their own organization. As the Scots are hostile to a hard Brexit, this will render the latter all the more improbable. Très bien.

3rd UPDATE: Yascha Mounk, writing in his column in Slate, is not optimistic that Jeremy Corbyn will stop a Brexit disaster.

4th UPDATE: George Walden—a former Tory politician and minister (and diplomat and journalist)—has a slash-and-burn broadside in The American Interest, “Mayday in the UK: Yesterday’s election results show that the UK’s political culture is every bit as debased as America’s,” in which he spares Theresa May and her party, plus Jeremy Corbyn, no quarter.

5th UPDATE: Writer-columnist Fintan O’Toole has an excellent commentary on the NYR Daily, “Britain: The end of a fantasy.” The fantasy, of course, is a Brexit in which the UK can, as the clown Boris Johnson famously put it, have its cake and eat it.

6th UPDATE: The Sunday Express reports that the DUP is committed to the principle of free movement of peoples within Europe. So much for a hard Brexit—or a Brexit at all.

7th UPDATE: Peter Mandler, who teaches British history at the University of Cambridge, explains in Dissent “why the Labour Party is not in such a mess after all.”

8th UPDATE: Judy Dempsey, who is a nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe. has a post on the Carnegie Europe website on “France’s rise and Britain’s demise.”

9th UPDATE: Simon Wren-Lewis, who teaches economic policy at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, has a worthwhile post-election post, on the Mainly Macro blog, on “Labour and its left.”

10th UPDATE: Journalist and entrepreneur Hugo Dixon has a post-election comment on his anti-Brexit website, InFacts, “All to fight for on Brexit – including changing our mind.”

Jihadi terrorism, that is. The news was dominated this past week by the terrorist attack in Manchester. There is not a sentiment I can express about it that hasn’t been by everyone else. Targeting youngsters for death and maiming, and at a festive event no less: ça dépasse l’entendement. One has no words. Je ne sais pas qu’est-ce qu’on peut dire de plus.

I did not scour the internet for articles to read on the atrocity, though stumbled across a few, such as this one from The Independent, “Salman Abedi: How Manchester attacker turned from cannabis-smoking dropout to Isis suicide bomber;” Emily Crockett’s comment in Rolling Stone, “Why Manchester bomber targeted girls: As is so often the case, misogyny was woven into this act of violence;” and the report in The Telegraph that the security services ignored reports from Muslims in Salman Abedi’s neighborhood about his erratic, worrisome behavior. And this editorial in The New York Times: “When terrorists target children.”

Some ten days ago I took a group of a dozen journalists from Denmark, who work the immigration/Islamic radicalism/terrorism beat in their country, on a walking tour of “immigration and the changing face of Paris,” which I periodically lead for the Paris office of Context Travel. The leader of the group was a sharp Copenhagen journalist named Jakob Sheikh (he’s Danish-Pakistani), who has reported extensively on the radicalization of young Muslims in Denmark. Two articles of his have been translated into English, which are particularly pertinent at the present moment, “My childhood friend, the ISIS jihadist,” in Mashable (October 15, 2014), and “Meeting the foreign fighters: how does Islamic State recruit thousands of Westerners?,” in the New Statesman (December 1, 2015).

My mother emailed me the other day, asking, in the context of the Manchester atrocity, if I had done a blog post on Udayan Prasad’s 1997 film My Son the Fanatic, the screenplay of which was written by Hanif Kureishi (and inspired by his 1994 short story in The New Yorker of the same title). I have not, in fact, had a post on the film, as it’s been over ten years since I last saw it. The one thing I’ll say about it here—in addition to it being first-rate and with a great performance by lead actor Om Puri—is that it remains, twenty years after its release, one of the best cinematic treatments one will find of the religious radicalization of the youthful offspring of immigrant families from Muslim countries—here, Pakistanis in the British Midlands—and of the perplexity, indeed despair, this provokes in their parents, who seek nothing more than to work, better their families’ lives, and integrate into the receiving society. But their children feel no such need to “integrate”—whatever integration for them is supposed to entail (those who yammer on about this never say)—or to keep their heads low and not make waves, because they were born into that society and are of it. Anyone interested in the subject should see the film (which is available on Netflix). The late, great Roger Ebert’s review of it is here and the trailer is here. See also Hanif Kureishi’s piece in The Spectator last December 10th, “‘My son the fanatic’ revisited: Can one generation’s mistake be corrected by the next?”

À propos, jihadi terrorism has been the subject of some six French films—feature-length, that have opened theatrically or were initially slated to—over the past couple of years, all which I have seen. If there’s a pic on the topic, I’ll see it, no matter how mixed or negative the reviews. And the reviews are often this, as of the six or so films in question, only one gets the thumbs up from me—more or less—and may be recommended—more or less—which is Le Ciel attendra (English title: Heaven Will Wait), by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar (who also directed the 2015 Les Héritiers). Moreover, it is the only one of the six or so that found an audience (330K tix sold, which isn’t too bad for a film of this genre).

The story is of two typically French middle-class teenage girls, Sonia (Noémie Merlant, nominated for the ‘most promising actress’ César for her performance) and Mélanie (Naomi Amarger, who lives in Créteil in the film, près de chez moi), with stable, loving families (Sonia’s father is Algerian but totally laïque) and who are doing well at school, but have become self-radicalized, via the internet, into Islamic State-style jihadi Islam. The film depicts their solitary descente aux enfers into Islamic extremism, the desperation of their parents (Sandrine Bonnaire plays the mother of Sonia) when they realize what is happening, and then the efforts to deradicalize them in therapy sessions led by the anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, who plays herself.

Bouzar has had a high-profile in France over the past decade, for her work on Islam and France—she publishes a book a year—and the tidy subventions she has received from the state for her association—the Centre de Prévention contre les Dérives Sectaires liées à l’Islam—and proactive work on deradicalizing French adolescents who have returned from Syria, been caught trying to get there, or contemplated doing so. For the anecdote, I saw Bouzar speak to a packed auditorium at the École Militaire, which seats 700, in January 2015 and which was streamed live to audiences throughout the world, but with her face blurred on the screen for security reasons (as if it was not already well-known to those who would want to know it). She was quite the star.

As for Bouzar’s arguments on self-radicalization and how to counter it—which I won’t try to summarize here—I found them interesting enough, though she has been severely criticized by academics and others who work in her domain, for, entres autres, her exclusive focus on juridical minors (those under age 18), emphasis on converts to jihadi Islam (including heretofore non-practicing Muslims), and of Facebook and other social media as a vector of radicalization. Bouzar and her work are controversial among practitioners and specialists, who consider her analysis of the wellsprings of jihadi radicalization to be problematic (there is also a personal side, as all of Bouzar’s university degrees were obtained after age 35, so she is not considered by some to be a bona fide member of the academic club, even though Olivier Roy was her doctoral thesis supervisor).

Back to Mention-Schaar’s film, French reviews were good (Paris press) to very good (Allociné spectateurs), though Hollywood critics who saw it at the Locarno film festival—here, here, and here—found it unsubtle, overly didactic, and with unconvincing performances. I won’t quibble with the stateside critics, though their objections didn’t bother me as much. One didactic point in the pic’s favor is that it depicted the reality of jihadi self-radicalization in this web 2.0 era by teenagers who have never set foot in a mosque or had actual face-to-face contact with real live salafis. Trailer is here.

As for the other films:

Made in France, by Nicolas Boukhrief: This was scheduled to open in theaters throughout France on November 18, 2015, and with big eye-catching posters (below) in the metro stations and elsewhere in public in the weeks prior. But then there was the terrorist atrocity of November 13th. Bad timing for the pic, the release of which was naturally postponed to a later date, and with the distributor finally announcing that it would go straight to VOD in January ’16 and not open theatrically at all. So one had to see it chez soi, on the small screen. That’s okay. It’s a by-the-numbers thriller, about a Franco-Algerian journalist named Sam (Malik Zidi) who infiltrates a jihadi cell in the Paris area (an alternative English title of the film is ‘Inside the Cell’) to land the big scoop. But then he gets caught in the engrenage—from which he cannot extricate himself—with the fanaticized cell leader Hassan (Dimitri Storoge), who is determined to commit a terrorist atrocity (spoiler alert: nothing happens), and flanked by the other cell members, all stock characters: Driss (Nassim Si Ahmed), the not-too-bright Maghrebi thug; Sidi (Ahmed Drame), the black, who’s not a bad guy deep down; and Christophe (François Civil), the Français de souche convert who’s settling personal scores. A genre film from A to Z. While entertaining, it’s not on the same pedagogical or sociological level—if one is looking for that—as Philippe Faucon’s 2012 La Désintégration. And the depiction of the cell—comprised of men who have not personally known one another for long—is of a bygone era. Jihadi terrorist cells in Europe nowadays are invariably composed of blood relatives. Hollywood press reviews—here and here—are more positive than for ‘Heaven Will Wait’. Trailer is here and interview with the director in The Guardian is here.

Les Cowboys, by Thomas Bidegain: This one, which opened two weeks after the November 13th atrocity, is less about terrorism than the sudden indoctrination of one’s child into a cult—here, salafi Islam, presumably terrorist-inclined—though which is not actually seen. It’s an odd film and from the opening scene, of a Western-style rodeo and hootenanny, with everyone dressed up like cowboys and cowgirls, contra dancing to country music, eating barbecue and burgers et le total, except that they’re all French people in the Bas-Bugey and in precisely 1994, when the story begins. Alain (François Damiens), Stetson on his head, is dancing with his 16-year-old daughter, Kelly, who then vanishes from sight. Alain and his wife, Nicole (Agathe Dronne), find a letter she has written them, saying that she has moved on to another life and bids them adieu. As they quickly learn, she has absconded with her petit ami, named Ahmed, who had become a salafi. She could be in Algeria—then in throes of the Islamist insurgency, though Ahmed’s Algerian immigrant parents, whom Alain knows, have no idea—the Middle East, Afghanistan, or anywhere. So Alain sets out on the obsessive quest to find his daughter, which takes him to Yemen, Pakistan—where he is helped by an American CIA type (played by John C. Reilly)—and other points on the globe, and that spans 17 years, though with him being killed in an automobile accident along the way, and with the search continued by his son (and Kelly’s younger brother), Kid (Finnegan Oldfield), who finally, maybe locates his sister in 2011.

Reviews of the film were good, including in the US, and with Damiens and director Bidegain receiving César nominations. It certainly held my attention, though I had mixed feelings about it. One understood Alain’s desperation as a father but his persona irritated me throughout, with his incessant blowing his stack and flying off the handle. And the ending left me unsatisfied. Bidegain was, as every review took care to mention, inspired by John Ford’s 1956 Western ‘The Searchers’, with Damiens obviously the John Wayne character and modern-day Muslims the savage Comanches. Having never seen ‘The Searchers’, I got it on Netflix in the US after seeing ‘Les Cowboys’. I was fully aware that Ford’s classic is considered a masterpiece and one of the greatest Westerns ever made—that, e.g., Martin Scorsese considers it one of the greatest films ever, period—but, personally speaking, thought it was crappy 1950s dreck, with wooden acting, a stupid story, and racist in the way it portrayed American Indians. And my mother, who has highbrow film tastes and knows well American cinema of the ’50s—when she was a young adult—entirely agreed with me. And no patient explanation of the film’s qualities will change our minds. Voilà. ‘Les Cowboys’, despite its flaws, is better. Trailer is here.

Taj Mahal, by Nicolas Saada. This one opened three weeks after the November 13th terrorist attacks. It reenacts the November 2008 terrorist operation in Bombay by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba—that lasted three days and killed 164 people—entirely from the perspective of an 18-year-old Franco-British girl named Louise (Stacy Martin, the protag in “Volume 1” of Lars von Trier’s preposterous 2014 ‘Nymphomaniac’), who found herself trapped during the attack in a suite at the Taj Mahal hotel, where she was staying with her parents. One hardly sees the terrorists as they maraud through the luxury hotel on their murderous campaign, the idea presumably being that one is supposed to feel the terror of a potential victim as she hides in the suite, keeping in touch with her parents, who are outside, via mobile phone.

I saw the film at an avant-première—on precisely the seventh anniversary of the first day of the attack—with the director and part of the crew present, plus members of the Association Française des Victimes du Terrorisme, who wholeheartedly endorsed the film. The intentions of the director were laudable and the film does have some merit—it was partly shot on location in Bombay—but unfortunately it’s a turkey. If one is expecting a high-octane, edge-of-your-seat thriller, this film is not it. One is struck by the blasé, low-key attitude of the parents (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing and Gina McKee) as they await the dénouement of the terror attack, and with their daughter at imminent risk of violent death. If it were me and my wife, we would, at minimum, be panic-stricken, if not downright hysterical. The general sentiment of Hollywood press critics is that the film was “inert” and low energy (here, here, here, and here). French reviews were more respectful—possibly because director Saada was a longtime critic at Cahiers du Cinéma, so a member of the club—though Allociné spectateurs were not so indulgent. The pic, needless to say, was a total box office failure. French audiences simply didn’t want to see such a film less than a month after November 13th. Trailer is here.

Salafistes, by François Margolin and Lemine Ould Salem. This is a  71-minute documentary that opened in late January 2016 and to controversy, as the ministry of interior sought to prevent its release—arguing that it constituted an “apology for terrorism” (a criminal offense in France)—and with the ministry of culture then trying to forbid it for persons aged 18 and under (which, in France, is exceedingly rare). The film, which finally opened in two theaters in Paris, consists of actual footage, by Mauritanian co-director Ould Salem, of Timbuktu under the rule of AQIM; interviews with radical salafi theologians in Mali, Mauritania, and Tunisia; and then raw footage of Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq carrying out horrendous acts, one of the more shocking being IS fanatics in their pick-ups racing down a desert highway in Iraq, machine-gunning every car they pass, just for the hell of it. In your face. My attitude during the film was who needs this? I am sufficiently well-informed on the subject, the film wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know, and watching psychotic people commit acts of gratuitous sadism and mayhem—not to mention salafi theologians (or “theologians”) blather about their crackpot Weltanschauung—is just not something I enjoy doing. But various persons thought the film worthwhile, e.g. former Le Monde editor-in-chief, Natalie Nougayrède, who wrote in The Guardian that “Salafistes is gruelling viewing – but it can help us understand terror.” And Claude Lanzmann, writing in Le Monde, called the documentary a “véritable chef d’œuvre…d’une grande beauté formelle, rapide, efficace, très intelligent,” and slammed the government for trying to block or restrict its release. And The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer also recommended it. Voilà, comme vous voulez. Trailer is here.

Voyage sans retour, by François Gérard. No one saw this film, or practically. It was slated for release in September 2013 but, in the month prior, was subjected to a campaign of denigration on social media, accusing it of being “Islamophobic,” with a lawsuit filed against it by a dodgy (subsequently disbarred) lawyer and actor Samy Naceri, who had a secondary role in the pic, entering into a conflict with the director and also trying to thwart its release. Director Gérard—who is ethnically Algerian (malgré his name)—denied that his film was in any way Islamophobic but the damage was done. It opened in only a couple of independent salles in the Paris area and was gone within two weeks. Vanished into the ether. I saw it via the internet a couple of years later (and needed help from a movie streaming-savvy colleague in finding the pic). In a nutshell, it’s about a Toulousian voyou named Kad (played by Gérard), who runs afoul of a gang of dealers, is obliged to hightail it out of France to England, where he is dragooned into an international terrorist organization, ends up in India and then Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he undergoes terrorist training, and with the idea that he will return to France to commit attentats. But then in Bombay, he runs into a former teacher of his, Nadine (Marie Vincent), who happens to be living there, the two develop sentiments for one another, and with her convincing him of the error of his ways. But he is not out of the woods yet.

The film was said to be loosely inspired by the story of Khaled Kelkal, though I didn’t perceive this at all. The review in Le Monde (one of the few) maintained that while “[f]ragile certes, imparfait assurément, Voyage sans retour est un document choc sur le recrutement des djihadistes dans les banlieues françaises, ce qui le pare d’une dimension testimoniale et pédagogique estimable.” This is too nice. All in all, it is not a good film. The sequence in south Asia is not credible—and particularly the relationship with the former teacher—the acting is mediocre, and one doesn’t give the film a moment’s thought after it’s over. If one wants to see the trailer, voilà. If one wants to actually see the film, good luck.

[update below]

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War—which is coming up in ten days—I am linking to a terrific essay I just read (h/t Michel Persitz), “The Tallest Man in Ramallah,” by the American novelist Michael Chabon, on his roaming the West Bank with the Palestinian-American businessman Sam Bahour. Numerous articles will be appearing over the coming weeks taking stock of Israel’s fifty-year-long stranglehold over the Palestinian territories—of its insidiousness but also absurdity—but Chabon’s will surely stand out as one of the best. It is posted here on the Literary Hub website and will appear in the book Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation, edited by Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, that will be published on May 30th by Harper Collins.

UPDATE: If one missed it, Raja Shehadeh had a must-read op-ed in the NYT (May 20th), “Life behind Israel’s checkpoints.”

The Philippe government

Gérard Collomb, Jean-Yves Le Drian, François Bayrou,
Bruno Le Maire, Laura Flessel, Nicolas Hulot (credit: Forbes)

[update below]

Voilà my à chaud reaction to PM Édouard Philippe’s first government (there will presumably be a second, after the June legislative elections, and assuming Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche wins a majority or substantial plurality, i.e. is not forced into a cohabitation with LR). First, there are a handful of political heavyweights—several well past the legal retirement age—but eleven of the twenty-two ministers and secretaries of state issue from civil society or the fonction publique and have never run for elective office. Which is to say, they are unknown to the public, as well as to me. But then, Macron made it clear through the campaign that this would be the case. Le renouvellement. Second, the economic side of the government tilts markedly to the neoliberal right, which, though probably not a surprise, is too bad. In point of fact, it’s not good at all. Third, the turmoil in LR will no doubt deepen on account of the government’s libéral tilt and Macron’s prises de guerre (see below). If LR does not formally split after the June election there will possibly be two LR-UDI parliamentary groups, with one supporting the government, which will insure an overall majority for PM Philippe even if La République en Marche falls short of this.

The members of the government, in order of protocol:

Gérard Collomb – Ministre d’État, Ministre de l’Intérieur: After forty years in politics, Monsieur Collomb finally lands a ministerial post—and in a ministère régalien, which is both normal given his stature and inevitable in view of his early support of Macron’s candidacy. He’s been a national figure in the PS—on its right flank—since 2001, when he was first elected as (the first-ever Socialist) mayor of Lyon. He’s clearly appreciated there but has been no one’s idea of a possible prime minister. Personally I find him dull. Boring. And I know I’m not alone in my sentiment. It may be the quality of his voice. But he’s solid and certainly has what it takes for this post.

Nicolas Hulot – Ministre d’État, Ministre de la Transition Écologique et Solidaire: He no doubt has the highest name recognition of any member of the government, and has long been one of France’s more popular personalities in the various palmarès. I am certainly among the tiny minority in France who never once watched his television show. He’ll certainly be outspoken on the good environmental cause and push the government in an ecology-friendly (and anti-nuclear) direction. The interesting question will be how long he lasts in the post.

François Bayrou – Ministre d’État, Garde des Sceaux: I wasn’t expecting him to be in the government at all, let alone at the Place Vendôme. He likely insisted on this, so as to personally write the law on the moralization of public life and that will carry his name.

Sylvie Goulard – Ministre des Armées: She was certain to figure in the government but at the Quai d’Orsay or as minister of European affairs, not defense. Curious. I saw her up close for the first time in 2004, at a small round-table discussion around her then new book that argued against admitting Turkey to the European Union. No one in France these days believes such a thing should happen—not for the foreseeable future, at least—but back then there was a vigorous debate on the question, with many—mainly on the left, but also the Chiraquien right—advocating eventual Turkish entry. Goulard’s argument was by far the most thoughtful and compelling of those opposed to Turkey in the EU. She smart and 100% pro-Europe. Her political roots are in MoDem.

Jean-Yves Le Drian – Ministre de l’Europe et des Affaires Étrangères: PS heavyweight, évidemment. I have yet to read the explanations as to why he left defense—his domain—for the Quai d’Orsay. Probably wanted a change of pace (though it will involve even more travel for him).

Richard Ferrand – Ministre de la Cohésion des Territoires: From the PS (second tier, not known outside Brittany until this campaign). He’s been one of Macron’s highest profile spokespersons of late and was obviously going to be in the government. Is well-spoken.

Agnès Buzyn – Ministre des Solidarités et de la Santé: Don’t know her. She’s a prominent personality in the medical profession (as a practitioner and professor).

Françoise Nyssen – Ministre de la Culture: She’s the director of Actes Sud, a high-quality, cutting-edge publishing house based in Arles, which publishes, entre autres, a lot of non-French literature (and is the Algerian novelist Kamel Daoud’s French publisher). Libération has a profile of her here. An interesting choice.

Bruno Le Maire – Ministre de l’Économie: Macron’s big prise de guerre from LR. If Le Maire was going to enter the government, it would have been vastly preferable to give him defense or the Quai d’Orsay. On economics, he is decidedly libéral (in the French sense, not American). Dismaying that he gets Bercy. It looks like Macron really is determined to push through his reform of the Code du Travail 😦 Whatever happened to Anne-Marie Idrac?

Muriel Penicaud – Ministre du Travail: Don’t know her. She comes out of the private sector but also the public, and with experience in ministerial cabinets, including in this domain. She knows the dossier but will she have the political weight to go head-to-head with the syndicats?

Jean-Michel Blanquer – Ministre de l’Education Nationale: Don’t know him. He’s a jurist and with high-level administrative experience in higher education. This is a big ministry and with powerful syndicats. Fera-t-il le poids?

Jacques Mézard – Ministre de l’Agriculture: From the PRG. Is a leading figure in the Senate, but as hardly anyone in France knows what happens in that body, hardly anyone knows about him. As he’s from the Cantal, he is certainly acquainted with the dossier.

Gérald Darmanin – Ministre de l’Action et des Comptes Publics: Another prise de guerre from LR. Rightist, is/was close to (gulp) Sarkozy. Not good.

Frédérique Vidal – Ministre de l’Enseignement Supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation: A biochemist, has been president of the university of Nice for the past five years. Can’t say much more about her than that.

Annick Girardin – Ministre des Outre-mer: From the PRG. She’s an élu from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (population 6,000), probably the first ever from there to accede to a ministerial post.

Laura Flessel – Ministre des Sports: Everyone remembers her gold medals (fencing) at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. A moment of national pride. She hails from Guadeloupe.

Élisabeth Borne – Ministre Déléguée de la Transition Écologique chargée des Transports: A polytechnicienne, was head of the RATP (Paris metro) until today.

Marielle de Sarnez – Ministre Déléguée chargée des Questions Européennes: François Bayrou’s right-hand woman and MoDem nº 2 for the past decade. Logical that she’s in the government.

Christophe Castaner – Porte parole du gouvernement, Secrétaire d’État en charge des Relations avec le Parlement: PS deputy from the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Macron campaign spokesman. This is an important post, so he is clearly both well-spoken and is considered to have good political and people skills.

Marlène Schiappa – Secrétaire d’État chargée de l’Égalité des Femmes et des Hommes: A local PS politico in Le Mans and author of numerous books on questions related to gender, parenting, and children. Seems like a natural for this post.

Sophie Cluzel – Secrétaire d’État chargée des Personnes Handicapées: Founder of several NGOs on handicapped persons, and particularly children.

Mounir Mahjoubi – Secrétaire d’État chargé du Numérique: That’s digital technology. He was the Macron campaign’s whiz-kid IT geek. Is brilliant, so they say. Hails from a working-class family of Moroccan immigrants. Will be running against Jean-Christophe Cambadélis in Paris’s 19th arrondissement next month. One wishes him well.

UPDATE: With the exception of the Bercy appointments (Le Maire, Darmanin), there is little to object to in the composition of the government for anyone who is not a supporter of La France Insoumise (or on the right, of course; though on AWAV we don’t care what they think). Ideologically speaking, the government is 100% Blairist-Clintonian (which may or not be a positive or negative thing, but is what it is). By my count, the partisan breakdown is 5 PS, 3 MoDem, 3 PRG, 2 LR, 9 civil society or fonction publique (and 2 énarques—Le Maire and Goulard—plus PM Philippe and president Macron, of course). The latter 9 are exceptionally qualified for their posts: top specialists in their fields and with high-level administrative experience. The contrast with the current US regime could not be greater. Some tidbits on few of these ministers:

Muriel Penicaud: Martine Aubry—whose ministerial cabinet she was in back in the early ’90s—has had positive things to say about her, as have most of the major unions (including CFDT and FO). That augurs well for the concertation between the government and syndicats over the reform of the Code du Travail.

Marlène Schiappa: She’s been the subject of a mini polemic—initiated by the petit connard Malik Boutih—over her apparent lack of commitment to laïcité, and on account of a tribune—thoughtful, IMO—she authored in Huffpost in July 2014, “Non, cher Manuel Valls, les quartiers populaires ne sont pas antisémites.” Insofar as she needed to clarify her thoughts on the matter—which I don’t think she needed to do—she did so in Elle. Case closed.

Françoise Nyssen: Jean-Luc Mélenchon accused her of being “more or less linked to cults (sectes),” on account of an alternative school she launched in Arles and with an unorthodox pedagogical approach. The refutations of JLM were swift, by, entre autres, blogger Romain Blachier and Juliette Gramaglia of Arrêt sur Image.

Laura Flessel: Arthur Asseraf of All Souls College, Oxford, felt her nomination smacked on tokenism, writing on Facebook:

Laura Flessel, embauchée dans un ministère potiche pour être le visage de la ‘diversité’ dans un gouvernement blanc = très progressiste, vraiment on chamboule les vieilles habitudes.

Ouch!

Plantu_Le Monde_18 mai 2017

%d bloggers like this: