Mr Macron unveiled a number of new policies yesterday in a bid to calm the yellow vest protesters who have wreaked havoc across France in weekly demonstrations for nearly six months. But Mr Nicolle deplored Mr Macron’s rejection of RICs, or citizens’ initiative referendums, a key demand of the protest movement. He told AFP: “He has not listened to what we have been saying in the street for the last five months… We know now that he is incapable of a mea culpa.
“He’s just thrown us a few breadcrumbs.”
“Everything has been pushed back, everything is vague, nothing is precise. And so on Saturday we will show him that we too know how to get things done.”
Mr Nicolle confirmed the yellow vests are gearing up to launch a 24th straight weekend of demonstrations tomorrow.
Jérôme Rodrigues, another high-profile yellow vest, said Mr Macron’s proposals sounded “hollow”.
He said: “He could sell sand to a Berber in the desert!”
With protesters denouncing what they see as his government’s elitism, Mr Macron said he wanted to get citizens more involved in the democratic process by making it easier to hold referendums, but only on a limited number of issues.
The news conference was also part of a wider effort to help the 41-year-old president regain the public’s trust.
He apologised – again – for his at times biting tongue and patronising comments, which have earned him a reputation for aloofness and dragged down his poll numbers, which are showing feeble signs of recovery.
“I regret them deeply,” Mr Macron said of the blunders, which included him calling critics of his labour law reforms “slackers”.
“I came across as hard and sometimes unfair, and I regret that,” he added.
Mr Macron, speaking after a lengthy tour of France to meet with disgruntled voters, also promised to slash income tax further by around €5billion (£4.3bn), financed by closing loopholes for some companies.
Along with the tax cuts, the former economy minister said government spending would be reduced and that the French would have to work longer to build up social contributions, an announcement that is likely to be met with criticism in a country known for its 35-hour week.
The yellow vest street revolt erupted over planned fuel tax hikes last November, but rapidly ballooned into a broader backlash against Mr Macron, widely believed to be indifferent to the concerns of France’s struggling working class.
Although the number of protesters has declined since a peak in November, rioters clashed with police last Saturday and the ongoing unrest has badly dented business, tourism and the economy.
Mr Macron’s political rivals also poured cold water on his attempts to end the social crisis.
Conservative leader Laurent Wauquiez said on Twitter: “The presents of today are the taxes of tomorrow.”
He later told Europe 1 radio: “I just don’t see where the president is taking the French.
“What I see is this: there is a lot of zigzagging and there are many inconsistencies.”
He said Mr Macron was “a president without a compass”.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, for his part, accused Mr Macron of “relaunching” the political crisis instead of ending it.
The response of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement national was equally blistering, with party spokesman Nicolas Bay denouncing Mr Macron’s “trivial” and “vague” measures.
Mr Macron now faces another uphill struggle ahead of the European parliamentary elections next month, with polls showing Mrs Le Pen’s RN is likely to perform well, potentially beating his La République en Marche movement.