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What the papers said 23 May 2018

rfi English, May 23

A detailed look at the popularity rating of President Emmanuel Macron; what happened during Tuesday’s public service strike; and what needs to be done to improve life for inhabitants of France's troubled suburbs?

Just how popular is Emmanuel Macron?

Right-wing paper Le Figaro has been mulling over the results of the most recent opinion poll, involving 13,540 voters, of which 55 percent feel the Macron government is too authoritarian, with three-quarters convinced that current economic policy benefits only the well-off.

Where does that leave the president?

Well, the opinion people asked three related questions: Are you broadly satisfied with the main man? Has his first year at the helm been a success? Has presidential policy improved the situation in France?

After that, which seems simple enough, we get hit with something called "Cronbach's alpha," several percentiles and a "dichotomised index" which reveals that 68 percent of those questioned are not happy and 32 percent are radiating contentedly.

Interestingly, the better educated you are, the more likely you are to approve of the president. And the higher you go up the social scale, the more popular Macron becomes.

But, says Le Figaro, it is too simple to conclude that Emmanuel Macron is the president of the rich. His status remains a political question and his popularity depends on the attitude of individual voters to economic and social liberalism.

Those who believe that France needs fewer civil servants, that business leaders should be left relatively free to get on with business, and that taking from the rich to give to the poor is a false form of social justice, tend to approve of Macron.

However, warns Le Figaro, the president's political support remains fragile.

Socialist leader not welcome at Paris march

France was on strike on Tuesday. Well, 139,000 public-sector employees were on strike marching around various cities and towns to defend the public service.

What was significant, according to Le Monde, was the level of trade union solidarity, with the eight or nine major labour organisations managing to overlook their differences and walk side-by-side for the first time since the protests against pension reform in 2010.

Also significant was the exclusion of Socialist Party boss Olivier Faure from the Paris march.

He tried to join in, walked along the footpath beside the cortège for a while, then made a detour to reach the head of the march. Only to be forced into the metro by protesters angry at the record of the previous Socialist government, who shouted "Get lost, you crook!", "Take a hike!", "Down with Socialist shits!" and other gems. Olivier Faure fled with as much dignity as is possible.

No more plans for France's troubled suburbs

Left-leaning Libération looks at Macron's plans for France's troubled suburbs.

Basically, there are going to be no more plans. They cost too much and they don't work, according to the president. Instead, we're going to try a new method, of which the details still need to be thrashed out. Concretely, government and big business are going to be asked to open their doors to secondary school trainees from difficult areas, to give disadvantaged kids a taste of life among the elite.

Libé's editorial on the topic is headlined "Dignity".

The article accepts that four decades of "plans" haven't done much to improve the situation. But adds that when you decide not to do something, you generally succeed.

So why did the president commission an enormous plan from Jean-Louis Borloo if all he wanted to do was consign the unfortunate man's work to the dustbin of history? Libé is mystified. So, probably, is Jean-Louis Borloo.

The president's non-plan involves spending lots of money on urban renewal, more and better child-minding facilities, a new effort to fight drug trafficking, and a serious attempt to ensure that businesses look at the capacities of potential employees, not just their addresses.

As for the Borloo "mystery", government accountants calculate that the former ecology, employment and finance minister's plan would have cost 50 billion euros. Which, so far as the president is concerned, is 50 billion very good reasons for deciding that the French suburbs need no more plans.

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