France’s youngest prime minister: Gabriel Attal rose through the ranks as rapidly as Macron

Advancement appears to have come remarkably easy for France’s new prime minister

In just over a decade, Gabriel Attal has risen from a work experience recruit in the health ministry to the second-highest office of state in France.

As of Tuesday, he has also become France’s youngest prime minister at 34 and the first openly gay leader of the government.

It is a spectacular trajectory, even for someone from Attal’s privileged background, for whom each career advancement appears to have come remarkably easy.

In the early years of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency, Attal was one of a group of well-educated young men from comfortable backgrounds picked to advise and support the equally young French leader.


Attal distinguished himself from the pack by his willingness to speak out in public on any issue thrown at him and his talent for finding the bon mot and soundbite. The formidable communication skills and ability to think and speak on his feet parrying questions in parliament in public, has earned him the nickname the Word Sniper.

Attal is the son of Yves Attal, a lawyer and film producer of Tunisian Jewish descent who died in 2015, and Marie de Couriss, who is descended from Orthodox Christians from Odesa. He grew up in Paris with his three younger sisters and uses the full name Gabriel Attal de Couriss.

In 2019, Attal told the Libération news outlet: “My father said to me, ‘Perhaps you’re Orthodox but you’ll feel Jewish all your life, mainly because you’ll suffer antiSemitism because of your name’.”

He was educated at the École Alsacienne, the private school of choice for high-profile parents in politics and the arts in Paris in the 6th arrondissement, where English lessons are obligatory from primary level. He later recounted how he had been bullied at school. After the baccalauréat, he studied at the prestigious Sciences Po University and obtained a masters in public affairs.

According to friends, his political ambition was sparked when he attended a demonstration against Jean-Marie Le Pen when the far-right leader was voted into the second round presidential run-off against Jacques Chirac in 2002. He joined the Socialist party in 2006 and supported the its presidential candidate, Ségolène Royal, in the 2007 election.

In 2012, a period of work experience in the office of the then health minister Marisol Touraine, the mother of one of his classmates, led to a full-time job in the ministry at the age of 23.

Touraine recognised him as a “clever, responsive man”, predicting for him “a great career and a bright future”.

In 2016, he left the Socialist party to join Macron’s nascent centrist political party En Marche, which later became La République En Marche (LREM).

Since then, his rise through the political ranks has been unstoppable and as rapid as the man he serves, Macron.

At 29, he was named secretary of state at the education ministry, becoming the youngest member of government under the Fifth Republic, which came into being in October 1958.

He has held several high-profile political jobs including the head of LREM, government spokesperson, public accounts minister as well as education minister. He was elected to the Assemblée National in June last year.

Attal is in a civil partnership with Stéphane Séjourné (38), an MEP and secretary general of the governing party – now named Renaissance – who was one of Macron’s political advisers until 2021.

In the past decade, Attal’s politics appears to have shifted from the centre-left to centre-right. In 2018, he responded to strikes by staff at SNCF, the national railway company, saying France had to “get out of the strike culture” and accused students protesting against changes to the education system as “selfish bobos (bourgeois Bohemians)”.

Macron – once known as “the golden boy” of French politics for his youth, dynamism and ambition – will be banking on the youthful, dynamic and ambitious Attal to invigorate a government weakened by its lack of parliamentary majority and enthuse a younger generation of disillusioned voters in the run-up to the European elections.

A recent poll carried out by Elabe for Les Échos suggested it would be a popular appointment, with 36 per cent of those who responded believing Attal would make a good prime minister.

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