EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW : Chris Bickerton is professor of politics at the University of Cambridge and has published many books, including “The citizen’s guide to the european Union” in 2016. His next book is titled ” Technopopulisme : The New Logic of Democratic Politics “; it will be published at the end of the year. In September 2017, in a public Forum to be very controversial (OP-ED) from the New York Times, it was titled : “Emmanuel Macron will also be a chair, miss.” Leading for many of the reactions of the political class, including that of Christophe Castaner who has tried to qualify as a representative of the national Front. Chris, while refuting any link with the National Front, said in a Release : “we can be on the left, pro-brexit and not necessarily related to racism or xenophobia “
FranceSoir : due to the rise of the dissatisfaction of the French on the government’s handling of the crisis, combined with a recent wave of tweets related to his article, we asked Chris what was his point of view, two years later, and if he had doubts about the words used at the time.
Chris Bickerton : first of All, I should explain that the situation has gone beyond the norm with a lot of confusion. The controversy erupted because many thought initially that it was the official position of the New York Times. When it was revealed that it was an article of me, the Government has acted in a defensive way, trying to ” shoot the messenger “.
Two years later, I would say two things : first of All, the pandemic has introduced a new series of problems, impossible to consider in 2017. Some leaders have experienced a ” very good crisis “, others ” less good “. Merkel in Germany has had a good crisis, as Kurz in Austria. I’m not sure that Macron has had a good crisis.
From my point of view, Macron has struggled with his popularity rating since his election, especially with the movement of protest extended to the ” yellow vests “. His political project was a side to transform France at the national level, and on the other, transforming Europe.
The current situation has not allowed for the implementation of its program related to the transformation of Europe, as a result, theattention was inevitably turned on its domestic policy and on the domestic governance of the government. In 2017, I tried to understand what was this new political force emerging, the Macronisme, that I qualified for ” coquille empty “
FS : are you Saying that we see the true Emmanuel Macron ?
CB : The conviction displayed by Emmanuel Macron is that things had to be done at european level, and his comments were before the european sovereignty. From 2017, the european ambition could not be held. In 2022, for the presidential elections, he will be in front of him candidates for euro-skeptics. They will not fail to attack him on many topics, including the pandemic and the position of France, a fervent supporter of the euro-bonds (Covid bonds), which will probably not arrive. It will also be challenged on its impact at european level which will make it difficult to respond.
FS : What was for you the president’s promise Macron ?
CB : In 2016-2017, the political message of Emmanuel Macron was two-fold :
• First of all, I am different from other political elites, and do not form part of the seraglio policy.
• Secondly, I will be more efficient to solve your problems.
Emmanuel Macron is shown as a personality remote to the Elysée presidential palace, causing some to regard him as a ” leader arrogant “. On his second promise (his ability to make things happen), he has tried a lot of things, but this has generated a lot of resistances, pressures and protests. These two issues are connected : as he has no real anchoring in society through a party or a movement traditional, he decided to introduce certain policies (such as the tax on the fuel), which triggered the movement of the Yellow Vests and made the people very angry.
FS : Can we criticize or condemn someone for trying ?
CB : You can’t criticize someone for trying, but you can challenger the way it has been done.
Part of the problem comes from the fact that Emmanuel Macron gave the feeling that he had all the answers and just wanted to implement the program that he had identified. Faced with the true reality of the people, this technocratic approach from the top to the bottom, eventually meeting much resistance.
FS : What would be your advice ?
CB : My description of Macron is that of a techno-populist : It gives at once the impression that he has the solutions as an expert, but also that it is populist, emphasizing that he alone he can directly understand France and its problems. His relationship with people is personal and direct, but it presents itself as a solver of problems. Macron is “the solution to the problems of the people.”
The techno-populism is not a good way to do politics, and I would argue the following tips :
1. Define and give substance to the Macronisme : What are its goals ? What is it trying to achieve contrary to what the opposition may wish to pursue
2. Transform ” off ” into a real political party that accepts the debate and criticism and is not just a label.
FS : You speak of techno-populism, to you what difference is there between a politician and a technocrat ?
CB : A politician believes in some things, a set of ideas (individual liberty or the achievement of a degree of equality), but they are values. Another person may have a different point of view, it is not in the wrong, they just have differences of ideas and values. In politics, there is no truth, there is not a good answer. All you can do is to build a political group that shares these ideas for winning an election, in order to try an implementation of this that you think would be the best way to manage the company.
For a technocrat there is a sense of truth, that he is the good policy. There are policies that work and others that don’t work. One of the problems of Macron is that it gives the feeling that you know the policies that work and those that don’t work and it transfers this policy.
When you bring the truth and the untruths in politics, it is very difficult to have a real political debate: the opposition no longer has a difference of point of view, ideas or values, but you conclude that he or she is simply in the wrong and it kills the kind of debate that modern democracies require.
FS : Do you think the Macronisme is a model for prime minister ?
CB : In France, traditionally, unless you have a cohabitation, the prime minister runs the will and the program of the president. The latter embodies a particular vision of France, of the design of the French society and that the government should try to do. It represents the French sovereignty, and it is with him that lies the ultimate authority. The government is implementing the sovereign will. It is thus that the Fifth Republic has been drawn.
FS : How do you see the government in France ?
CB : Emmanuel Macron has that position technocratic in him. In fact, his government has a technocratic approach, including in the style of prime minister Edouard Philippe, who is very technocratic. Macron ” named “, as his ministers, many people recognized as experts in their domain of civil society. He has made it a central element of the value of its programme, appointing these experts from the company and not the policy.
From my point of view, the role of a prime minister under the Veme republic is to be technocratic and the president over policy.
FS : You had predicted that Macron would encounter problems with the exception of the pandemic. What will happen ? How do you see the future ?
CB : The Macronisme and Emmanuel Macron have a structural problem. It exists and will not disappear. The dimension populist Macron is expressed by trying too please everyone, the strategy used did not lead to appeal to a group or not please the other. He has often said : “I am going to do this and I’m going to do this” I have noted a recent reduction in the use of this approach. This represents ” its policy in general “.
In politics, a leader constantly takes decisions that will have an effect very important in knowing that some people will benefit and others will not. The policy is to manage the interest of the “units” of the company, while keeping an ” overall vision “. The political discourse should be clear and justify one position or the other, for example : “I want to help the middle class or I want to help the businesses.” When the political discourse tries to appeal to everyone, it generates a lot more resistance and leads to difficulty that we must deal with. I think that is the real problem that Macron a. there is no balance between the “parts” and “whole” with Emmanuel Macron, it’s all a question of “all”.
FS : Would you say that France is facing injunctions paradoxical ?
CB : Yes, of course. The policy is a basic design choice, redistribution and equality. In the current context of limited economic growth, in trying to bring answer to all and everyone, to please everyone you undermine your own promises. You make the people unhappy, which is the opposite of what you have undertaken and that you want to deliver. Somehow, the techno-populism is a form of self-destruction policy, it undermines constantly the inside.
FS : How do you think that Emmanuel Macron will behave ?
CB : It will, of course, look beyond the pandemic, and controversies of the crisis (masks, tests…). These are seizures transient.
The real question lies in the way in which Emmanuel Macron, emerges out of this crisis. Is that the same patterns will be repeated ? I think yes, because the Macronisme has not really developed beyond this techno-populism. It must give substance to this ” empty shell “.
In addition, I think it will be difficult if it is presented at a second client. This will not be easy for him.
FS : What positive elements would you have to say about his person ?
CB : looking At the position I’ve taken in 2017, I was a little disparaging. We both have the same age and maybe I was jealous when he was President at the heart of the action, I watched from the outside as a thinker, as an intellectual. My intentions were not to be disparaging, but simply to understand and go to the heart of what constitutes the Macronisme, this new political force in Europe. The task of the intellectual, after all, is not to try to make friends, but to try to understand, to get to the heart of the issue.
I do understand why it tries to implement some aspects of its program, France is not perfect and needs structural reforms. I am also very sensitive to the hostility that the French had towards the traditional system of political parties (socialist party, center, right).
I remain convinced that the Macronisme is again:
FranceSoir the manifesto : in France our experts it is up to you.