The UK system
It is true that in the UK the situation is simpler – the political party with the second-largest number of seats in the House of Commons becomes the Official Opposition, headed by the party’s leader – at present Labour’s Keir Starmer. Its leader is seen as a shadow prime minister and leads a shadow cabinet that is usually clearly different to the ruling party in its politics.
The French system
In France’s National Assembly, political parties are mostly organised into groups of parties with similar leanings, which must have at least 15 MPs each. Those MPs (non-inscrits) who do not form part of a group, including the six Rassemblement National (right-wing) MPs, are unlikely to obtain positions of power within the house and have fewer opportunities to ask questions.
The group with the most MPs and allied groups is known as the majority. This is currently La République en Marche, the new centrist and liberal group founded by Emmanuel Macron. Where, as currently, it supports the president, it is called the “presidential majority”. This consists of MPs from La République en Marche and politically centrist allies the Agir Ensemble group.
There are then groups that officially declare themselves to be in opposition, and others described as “minority” groups. Opposition groups currently include: Les Républicains (right), Socialistes (left), UDI et Indépendants (centrist), and two hard-left groups, La France Insoumise and La Gauche démocrate et républicaine. Two other centrist groups, Modem and Libertés et Territoires, are minority ones, as is Ecologie Démocratie Solidarité (green).
France does not have a strong tradition of a “shadow cabinet”, referred to in French as le cabinet fantôme when describing the Westminster system. Certain opposition MPs have sought to set up a similar contre-gouvernement at different times, but this has not existed consistently. The last short-lived attempt was in 2018 by Les Républicains’ then-leader Laurent Wauquiez.
Brigitte Macron in a rare interview on her life alongside the French head of state, how she fulfils her role, and the capacity in which she influences her husband, Emmanuel Macron