President Emmanuel Macron was clearly humbled by the dramatic events when Notre Dame was on fire on Monday night. He sensibly cancelled his scheduled televised event where he was due to set out the “first concrete measures” to be taken in response to the “concerns raised” at over 10,000 debates held around the country as well as the nearly two million contributions made online. Instead he made an emotional speech about Notre Dame.
Parties have also temporarily suspended EU election campaigns in the wake of the fire.
Watching Macron on Monday night delivering the sombre but defiant news that ‘France will rebuild Notre Dame’, made me wonder whether this was Macron’s equivalent of Margaret Thatcher’s Falkland’s War moment. Thatcher grasped the chance to wrap herself in the union flag and appear as a latter-day Britannia in person. It left her looking like a strong leader at a time when she was under extreme pressure. This changed her image to such a positive extent that she was able to gain power once again. Parallels with Macron right now are obvious.
Is this Macron’s moment to win over the hearts of the people by saving the national treasure, Notre Dame? Is Macron going to use this obvious symbolism as a way of getting the French public to re-invent themselves in a wave of nostalgia-fuelled pathos?