Macron's error: politics is the art of the possible

Emmanuel Macron must find it incomprehensible. A few weeks ago, as this column observed, he considered himself the next emperor of Europe, awaiting Angela Merkel’s withdrawal from the Ger­man chancellorship before ascending his apparently inevitable throne.

Now he is humbled, humiliated, forced into a craven surrender to a traditional French mob chucking cobblestones and Molotov cocktails.

Le Figaro, during the mid-December EU summit, put it appropriately: ‘Macron affaibli sur la scène euro­péenne’, splashed on its front page across a photograph of the president, his gaze fixed to the ground ahead of him, walking into the meeting alone and manifestly without his usual swagger.

That he had to apologise for that swagger – his arrogance, which seemed to mark him out as a self-conscious Brahmin or elitist – as part of his appeasement of the gilets jaunes was but a part of his self-abase­ment before a group who chose civil disobedience rather than constitutional methods to show their dissatisfaction with the Macron régime.

How did they hobble him so quickly? Perhaps the first reason lay in a central ...

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