‘Macron wants higher birth rate - of the right kind of French babies’

The president’s latest bid for Le Pen votes is deeply unsavoury, warns commentator Nabila Ramdani

Mr Macron called for ‘France to stay France’ and to be strengthened by combatting falling birth rates

Baby kissing is one of the oldest clichés in the political playbook. It is a simple, heart-warming gesture, but it perfectly signifies stability, trustworthiness, and faith in the next generation.

Nobody ever lost votes shouting the aptly infantile truism ‘The children are our future,’ although there was still something deeply unsavoury about Emmanuel Macron’s latest dive into nation-building around youth.

Make the country’s boys and girls more ‘traditional’

During a torturously long televised press conference at the start of the year, the French president suggested multiple measures aimed at making the country’s boys and girls more conservative, more traditional, and generally much more likely to believe in old-school France.

Policies ranged from teaching children the extremely bellicose and anti-foreigner words of La Marseillaise – the national anthem – to putting them all in a school uniform that will contrast neatly with the kind of garb favoured by ethnic and religious minority newcomers.

Mr Macron urged more mainstream art history and drama to be taught, in line with France’s great cultural traditions.

American-style graduation ceremonies would also make high school pupils feel prouder of themselves, and indeed their own great red-white-and-blue, flag-waving republic, he argued.

Read more: Tax cuts and foreign doctors: Macron's wishlist to revive France

Higher birth rate means more armed services recruits

More than that, Mr Macron called for “France to stay France” and to be “strengthened” by “combatting” low birth rates.

If this all sounds a bit warlike, it is because it was meant to – the President is also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and, historically, more children equate to more recruits to join the army, navy and airforce in good time for the next battle.

The fertility rate was an average of 1.68 children per woman in France in 2023, compared to 1.79 in 2022, and Mr Macron and his generals want the figure to be going up instead of down.

This also fits in perfectly with the President’s aim to bring back mandatory national service for teenagers.

Except that is also where the extreme unpleasantness comes in.

Read more: Life expectancy in France hits a record - and births plummet

Macron wants ‘right kind’ of French babies and Le Pen votes

Mr Macron hopes to see an upsurge in the number of “traditional” Gallic babies because this appeals to voters who would normally support the xenophobic National Rally of Marine Le Pen.

He covets her votes in crucial European Parliament elections taking place in June.

Ms Le Pen is also tipped to replace Mr Macron as head of state in 2027, and he says he needs to prevent this happening, so that his own party can provide a successor (Mr Macron will have completed two terms by then, the maximum allowed for French heads of state).

A spike in the birth rate of the right kind of French people – for which read ‘white’ and with their roots firmly in Christian France – has always been a goal of extreme conservative nationalists.

These are to be contrasted with the millions of dark-skinned French citizens with links to France’s former colonies.

Mr Macron was clearly referencing the latter communities in 2017, the year he was elected president, when he spoke of the problems associated with Africans overbreeding.

“Seven or eight children per woman,” were his exact words at a G20 summit.

He spoke of “civilisational” disadvantages caused by an escalating birth rate, including mass immigration to western countries.

Read more: ‘French far-right fight over rural votes with village-idiot policies’

Macron playing up to the Great Replacement Theorists

As his administration now moves further to the Right to face up to the Le Pen challenge, Mr Macron is certainly playing the birth card.

He even appears to be appeasing French conspiracy theorists who believe that the indigenous population is reproducing so slowly that it will one day be overtaken by non-white peoples – especially from Muslim-majority countries.

This so-called Great Replacement Theory is as hyperbolic as it is deeply racist, but it is routinely rehearsed by the kind of far-right radicals that Mr Macron is trying to appeal to.

He won’t champion their bigotry out loud, but he is certainly prioritising a profoundly reactionary France where only the right kind of babies will feel at home.

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