Macron’s team: a careful blend of age, gender and background

Men and women, politics and civil society get equal billing in new French government

French centrist politician Francois Bayrou arriving at the Élysée Palace on Sunday. Bayrou has been named justice minister, the  fourth-ranking position in the French government. Photograph: Christophe Ena/AP

French centrist politician Francois Bayrou arriving at the Élysée Palace on Sunday. Bayrou has been named justice minister, the fourth-ranking position in the French government. Photograph: Christophe Ena/AP

 

President Emmanuel Macron met most of the criteria he set for his French government, which was announced on Wednesday. It is small, with 22 ministers and secretaries of state. It is half male and half female, though only one of the most important ministries, defence, was entrusted to a woman.

An average age of 54.6 makes the cabinet substantially older than Macron (39) and his prime minister, Edouard Philippe (46), who was appointed on Monday. Half its members come from civil society.

The government is a careful blend of political backgrounds, with three defectors from the conservative Les Républicains (LR), three centrists from the MoDem party and numerous Macron loyalists, many of them former socialists who supported the dark horse candidate from the beginning.

Two of the most important ministers, Jean-Yves Le Drian (69), minister for Europe and foreign affairs, and Sylvie Goulard (52), minister for the armed services, have Irish connections.

Le Drian, who is also president of the Brittany region, became friends with President Michael D Higgins when they were mayors of Lorient and Galway and their cities were twinned.

Goulard developed a friendship with the Irish diplomat Laura Dagg when Dagg worked for a European think tank established by Goulard.

As interior minister, Gérard Collomb (69), the mayor of Lyon, a senator and an early supporter of Macron, is the second-ranking cabinet minister, after the prime minister. He will have primary responsibility for the domestic security forces fighting jihadism in France.

Revenge

Collomb wept with emotion at Macron’s inauguration on Sunday. A “baron” of the socialist party, Collomb considered the election of a young social liberal revenge against socialist frondeurs, or rebels, who blighted President Francois Hollande’s term in office.

At a time when the Socialist Party was threatening socialists who rallied to Macron with expulsion, Collomb worked discreetly to obtain the 500 mayors’ signatures that Macron needed to stand for the presidency. He gathered 1,829 endorsements.

Collomb served as a go-between with the leader of the centrist MoDem party, Francois Bayrou, on Macron’s behalf. In February, Bayrou (65) decided to support Macron rather than attempt a fourth run for the presidency. That gave Macron a decisive breakthrough in the polls. The two men were united by a firm belief that the old two-party system was about to implode, and that a broad coalition was needed to save the country.

Lyon mayor Gerard Collomb is France’s new interior minister. Photograph: Christophe Ena/AP
Lyon mayor Gerard Collomb is France’s new interior minister. Photograph: Christophe Ena/AP

Bayrou was rewarded on Wednesday with the ministry of justice, the fourth-ranking position in the government. His first job will be to draw up a draft law on morality in public life. In the midst of financial scandals that discredited the conservative candidate Francois Fillon and the extreme right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen, Bayrou made such a law the first condition of his alliance with Macron, who included it in his programme.

The law on morality in public life will be the first presented under President Macron, before the June 11th and 18th legislative elections. It will ban deputies and senators from hiring family members, and limit or preclude entirely their ability to work as private consultants while in office. It will also limit them to three consecutive terms in parliament, and make all benefits taxable.

Environment

The environmentalist Nicolas Hulot (62) is considered the biggest catch of the new government. Hulot became famous as the charismatic presenter of Ushuaia, a televised travel and adventure programme with ecologist overtones.

France’s two previous presidents had attempted to recruit Hulot, but he refused to join repeated governments. As minister for “ecological transition” and the third-ranking member of the cabinet, he will follow up on the Paris accord on climate change while attempting to diminish France’s reliance on nuclear energy. He is also likely to end plans for the controversial airport at Notre Dame des Landes.

Sylvie Goulard has been named minister for the armed services. Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP
Sylvie Goulard has been named minister for the armed services. Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP

Several new cabinet members are known for strong European commitments. The armed services minister, Goulard, is a convinced federalist who was elected to the European Parliament in 2009 and 2014. She earlier served as an adviser to the former president of the commission Romano Prodi, and has written several books on European issues.

Goulard is fluent in German, English and Italian, and acted as Macron’s advance person in building ties with Germany. Her appointment is a sign of his seriousness regarding European defence co-operation.

LR roles

Though they number only three, LR members received the crucial positions of prime minister, economy minister and budget minister.

The career diplomat and failed LR presidential candidate Bruno Le Maire (48) declared his willingness to work with Macron on the night of the election. Like Goulard, he is a staunch European.

As minister of the economy, Le Maire will pursue Macron’s plans for greater integration of the euro zone. He will be assisted by another LR defector, Gérald Darmanin (34), minister for “action and public accounts”, formerly known as minister for the budget.

After the French presidency and government, the renewal of French politics is certain to extend to the National Assembly, where one-third of outgoing deputies have decided not to stand for re-election.

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