President Emmanuel Macron completed an exhausting “great debate” tour of France yesterday (Thurs) with a tense visit to Corsica, where nationalists boycotted the meeting and brandished the island’s flag depicting a beheaded Moor by way of welcome.
Mr Macron has spent almost 100 hours listening since January listening and responding to the grievances of local mayors and officials in meetings around France. The exercise was part of an attempt to assuage the yellow-vest revolt, which fanned from the provinces to Paris and snowballed into the worst crisis of his presidency.
Almost two million people have posted suggestions on issues ranging from taxes to popular referendums on a dedicated website while a further million have taken part in almost 1,500 meetings across the country.
Mr Macron’s uncannily good memory and stamina have won plaudits during the 15 debates he has taken part in with groups ranging from intellectuals in Paris to schoolchildren in Burgundy. Even rivals offered grudging praise at his ability to go from macroeconomics to the minutiae of local politics, on everything from “bears in the Pyrenees to toxins in Tampax”, to quote one observer cited by Le Figaro.
As a result his poll ratings have started to recover after hit an all-time low amid claims he was an arrogant and out-of-touch “president of the rich”.