Macron trying to ‘reduce demand’ by criticizing Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, says vaccine scientist – POLITICO

Amid a bitter cross-Channel feud over the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, one of the scientists behind the drug has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of trying to suppress demand.

On Friday, Macron said the vaccine was “quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older.”

“I’m not sure where he got that from,” John Bell, a medical professor at Oxford University, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Saturday. “I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr. Macron,” he said. “If you didn’t have any vaccine the best thing you could do is reduce demand.”

EU leaders this month reacted angrily to AstraZeneca’s announcement that production would fall far short of originally anticipated volumes. Macron’s fresh comments came hours before the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the EU’s regulator for use in all age groups.

While the European Medicines Agency said there was not yet enough evidence to judge its effectiveness in older people, they said there was no reason to think the vaccine would not work.

Bell, who oversaw the vaccine development, conceded that the numbers of older people tested “were small, in fairness,” but the data “still pointed toward a very highly effective vaccine” in all age groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is at the heart of an ongoing supply row between the U.K. and EU. The EU on Friday asked customs authorities to block exports of all vaccines from Saturday without explicit authorization — an announcement that initially would have included exports to Northern Ireland.

That triggered immediate blowback from both EU capitals and London and a late-night U-turn from the European Commission because of the sensitivities of the Irish border arrangements.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier urged calm in the Times in an interview published Saturday, saying: “I believe that we must face this crisis with responsibility, certainly not with the spirit of one upmanship or unhealthy competition.”

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Sluggish coronavirus vaccination rollout poses risks for Macron – POLITICO

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PARIS — France’s coronavirus vaccine jabs — or the lack of them — may leave a mark on Emmanuel Macron’s re-election campaign.

Having dropped the ball on face masks and early testing, the French government is now distinguishing itself with the glacial pace of its COVID-19 vaccination drive, compared to other European countries. It is doing so despite having hired leading consulting firm McKinsey to advise on logistics. And the government’s efforts to explain its strategy to its distinctly vaccine-reluctant population have been undermined by contradictory public statements.

The sluggish start to vaccination efforts is raising concerns that France may fall behind in containing the pandemic amid fears of a third wave, and that the country’s economic recovery could be delayed. That, in turn, risks damaging Macron’s chances of securing a second term in next year’s presidential election.

“Emmanuel Macron knows the stakes are very big, because we are in the last useful year of his presidential term, and this is an extremely symbolic issue,” said Chloé Morin, a social scientist who served as an adviser on public opinion to two prime ministers under President François Hollande, Macron’s Socialist predecessor.

Even though it kicked off its vaccination drive at the same time and with the same vaccine as other EU countries, France only administered doses to a few hundred people, according to the latest publicly available data.

As criticism mounted, Health Minister Olivier Véran declared “thousands” had been vaccinated on Monday, without giving exact figures. And the French total still appears very low compared to more than 230,000 in Germany, more than 110,000 in Italy, more than 40,500 in Denmark, more than 7,800 in Croatia and more than 2,500 in Estonia. It is also far behind the nearly 1 million who have received a dose in the U.K., where vaccination efforts started earlier.

As the chorus of public criticism grew, Macron’s “anger” at the state of the effort was strategically leaked to a French newspaper on Sunday.

A few days after Véran said the slow pace of the vaccination was a deliberate choice to build trust in the vaccine, the Journal du Dimanche reported that Macron told people close to him that the pace was “not worthy of the moment or of the French people” and said “things aren’t going well right now” and “must change quickly and notably.”

But the comments struck a false note with many observers, as France’s powerful presidency gives Macron far more influence over policy than anyone else and he has cast himself as the commander in chief in the fight against the pandemic, holding meetings with key officials to decide on lockdowns and other important measures.

Initially, at least, Macron’s words didn’t translate into a dramatic acceleration. Instead, high-risk health care professionals over 50 were added to the first batch of vaccine recipients but in a meeting with the regional authorities on Sunday, Véran otherwise encouraged the continuation of the existing strategy, according to insiders and to a document seen by POLITICO.

That strategy is to start by only vaccinating elderly people at high risk of severe forms of COVID-19 in retirement homes, as recommended by the French authority for health.

The recommendation was based, at the end of November, on the expectation of “a limited number of doses available at the beginning of the campaign.” But, in fact, 500,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were available from the outset. Another 500,000 are expected to be delivered by the middle of this week, according to Véran.

Even taking into account a recommendation to set aside half the doses for a secondary jab, the number of people vaccinated so far in France remains surprisingly low.

This latest setback in France’s efforts to get to grips with the coronavirus is a blow to the country’s prestige and pride in its taxpayer-funded healthcare system, generally regarded as world-class.

Despite being home to the Pasteur Institute that cracked the HIV virus and is named after famed scientist Louis Pasteur who invented the vaccine against rabies, no French company has produced an approved COVID-19 vaccine yet.

Presidential intervention

In a clear sign that he recognized change was needed, Macron convened a meeting with Prime Minister Jean Castex and Véran on Monday evening in order to figure out how to further speed up vaccinations.

As well as saying several thousand people had been vaccinated by Monday, Véran also said the number of vaccination centers would be quadrupled by Wednesday to around 100 hospitals.

But French officials also chose to defend their record by arguing that they were doing similarly to, or better than, other low performers in the EU like Belgium or the Netherlands.

Officials dismissed criticism of logistical failings, pointing out the government started preparing for the roll-out months in advance, and acquired 50 special freezers to properly store the vaccine doses in mid-November.

The French government also took the step of hiring McKinsey to advise on the logistics of the vaccine drive. Its advice pertained to “defining the logistical framework,” “establishing logistical benchmarking with other countries,” and “supporting the operational coordination of the task force,” a health ministry official said.

Véran has also dismissed the idea of turning stadiums into vaccination centers as part of a massive drive to ramp up vaccinations. “We want a vaccination drive that is close to citizens and accessible,” he said Monday. “I’m not sure it needs to be big stadiums with thousands of people queueing in the winter.”

Officials say the slow pace so far is in part due to the time-consuming, heavy logistical process of administering the vaccine in retirement homes.

They have also said the government is rolling out the program slowly in hopes of building more trust in the vaccine. In December, only 40 percent of French people said they would get a vaccine if it were available — a much lower figure than in other European countries such as Italy, Spain, Germany and the U.K, according to an Ipsos survey.

French vaccine skepticism is mainly driven by fear of side effects, according to another Ipsos poll, published in September. Some in France are still marked by the unanticipated side effects of the H1N1 vaccine from 2009.

But people are also less willing to get the vaccine if they have little confidence in the government, according to IFOP pollster Louise Jussian.

“The issue is more political,” Jussian said. “Support for the vaccine hinges on trust in the government.”

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France’s Emmanuel Macron leaving isolation after week with COVID-19

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron no longer has virus symptoms and is leaving isolation after a week with COVID-19, but is urging the French public to limit their contacts and remain vigilant to keep infections under control during the Christmas holidays.

Macron’s office said on Thursday, local time, that he is finishing a week of isolation at a presidential retreat in Versailles based on French health protocols, which recommend seven days of confinement following the appearance of symptoms or a positive virus test.

French President Emmanuel Macron released a video while he was isolating in Versailles.Credit:@EmmanuelMacron via AP

In an apparently self-shot video from the presidential retreat last week, a tired-looking Macron said he was suffering from a dry cough, headaches and fatigue, and said negligence and bad luck led to him getting infected.

French authorities lifted virus restrictions for the holidays but infections remain high, and some doctors are urging new lockdown measures.

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From bows to handshakes, how Macron let social distancing slip

French President Emmanuel Macron, tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is seen on a screen as he attends by video conference a round table for the National Humanitarian Conference (NHC) at the Foreign Ministry in Paris, France, December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/Pool

December 17, 2020

By Michel Rose

PARIS (Reuters) – Once an early adopter of the coronavirus-proof ‘namaste’ greeting, French President Emmanuel Macron was showing signs of letting his guard down almost a year into the pandemic.

On Monday, three days before his office said he had tested positive for COVID-19, Macron greeted OECD chief Angel Gurria with a warm hand clasp in the Elysee palace courtyard, pulling the 70-year-old into a loose embrace, a Reuters picture shows.

They were wearing masks, but Macron broke his government’s no.1 pandemic rule: stick to what the French call “barrier gestures” and avoid handshakes, hugs and kisses.

“You know them, they save lives: barrier gestures are not an option!” Macron said in a tweet on July 12. His office did not return a request for comment about his welcome for Gurria.

Macron was always very tactile before the pandemic, sharing hugs with leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump and kissing and patting members of the public on the back.

In the past couple of weeks, the French leader fist-bumped EU counterparts at a summit in Brussels and greeted EU chief Charles Michel and Spanish leader Pedro Sanchez at the Elysee with pats on the back and elbows, TV footage shows.

Now Sanchez, Michel and Gurria are self-isolating.

Macron also hosted a lunch at the Elysee on Tuesday with about 20 parliamentary leaders and dined with a dozen lawmakers on Wednesday, parliamentary sources said, despite his government recommending no more than six guests at the table during end-of-year holidays.

That contrasted with his careful following of social-distancing guidelines earlier in the pandemic.

In March, days before he put the nation on lockdown, he replaced the traditional handshake with the Indian-style namaste when he greeted Spain’s king and queen in Paris, pressing his palms together and bowing slightly.

He repeated the namaste greeting with Britain’s Prince Charles on June 18 and maintained social distance outside 10 Downing Street with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

But on Oct. 28, when he announced a second lockdown, he included himself among those who had let social distancing slip.

“We should all have respected barrier gestures more, especially with family and friends,” he said on TV. “Is now the time for regrets?”

(Reporting by Michel Rose; additional reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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France’s Macron tests positive, and now Europe is scrambling to put the lid on a potential COVID cluster

The news Thursday morning that French President Emmanuel Macron had tested positive for the coronavirus landed like a pre-Christmas bombshell not only in his own country—but also across the 27-country European Union, whose leaders have been shuttling in and out of in-person meetings for weeks, grappling with a looming economic crisis, Britain’s imminent Brexit departure from the E.U., and of course, the pandemic’s second wave.

Now the question is: Could Europe’s leaders emerge as a COVID-19 cluster?

That worrying possibility was clearly on politicians’ minds after Macron’s infection was announced. Shortly after Macron tested positive, European Council President Charles Michel began self-isolating, as did Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, both of whom met Macron in Paris on Monday—in Sanchez’s case, with lunch with the French leader. The Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who had lunch with Macron on Wednesday, also went into isolation, as did the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo.

Macron took the coronavirus test on Thursday morning after experiencing “the first symptoms” on Wednesday evening, according to the Elysée Palace. The statement did not say when the French leader had most recently tested negative, leaving unclear when he was infected, and how long he might have been infectious. After the result came back positive, Macron immediately began a seven-day quarantine period inside the ornate presidential residence, along with his wife Brigitte Macron. French Prime Minister Jean Castex and the National Assembly President Richard Ferrand also immediately self-isolated. Castex tested negative on Thursday.

But that leaves many politicians who could have been exposed to the virus. French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said contact-tracing had already begun involving everyone Macron might inadvertently have infected—or perhaps have been infected by. “I must insist that the fact is the virus is circulating in France,” Attal said, reminding people to observe social distancing and health measures.

The list of Macron’s contacts over the past week is like a who’s-who of Europe’s top political figures.

It includes 25 of the 27 E.U. leaders who met in Brussels for a crucial two-day summit last Thursday and Friday. The leaders have been in intensely close contact for weeks, often in person, piecing together a €1.8 trillion ($2.2 trillion) coronavirus relief package, and holed up in fraught talks over Brexit, which is due to take effect on January 1—just two weeks away.

“This is a realization,” Brigitte Autran, a scientific member of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine committee, said on BFM Television on Thursday. “No one is immune to the virus, not even the head of state.” Macron’s infection came more than two months after President Trump tested positive for the virus.

Packed schedule

Of all Europe’s leaders, Macron, who turns 43 on Monday, is probably the most kinetic, with a packed agenda even during the pandemic, and a parade of world leaders who regularly arrive on his doorstep at the Elysée. A glance at his hectic schedule this past week—when he might well have been infectious—now makes for unsettling reading.

Last Monday, he met with top diplomats in Paris for the 60th anniversary of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), including the E.U.’s top official, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and then he had lunch with Spanish leader Sanchez. He met climate leaders on Monday. On Tuesday, he held a defense and security council meeting, and met with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as the leaders of France’s National Assembly, and had lunch with the French Prime Minister. On Wednesday, he had lunch with Portuguese leader Costa, and met with the entire French entire cabinet, which was seated shoulder-to-shoulder at the Elysée for its weekly meeting with the President. “We wore masks, except during lunch,” Damien Abad, leader in the National Assembly for the opposition Republicans party, said on BFM, of his Tuesday meeting.

Macron’s infection shows how exceedingly complicated it is to contain the second wave in Europe, a region of some 450 million people, many of whom criss-cross borders easily, conducting extensive international business.

I witnessed that myself during a two-day visit to Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday. The high-speed trains linking Paris and Brussels, a 90-minute journey, were full both ways, with not a spare seat.

In the European Parliament building in the Belgian capital, there were dozens of delegates in and out of small meeting rooms both days. Many of the 704 members of the E.U. Parliament remain in their home countries, logging into meetings on video-conference platforms. But many are there in person, attending to a dizzying range of issues.

On Wednesday afternoon, dozens of politicians were inside the parliament’s grand chamber to approve the E.U.’s biggest-ever financial relief measures. The session was presided over by the two top E.U. leaders, von der Leyen and Michel, who removed their masks when they spoke, one after the other, from the podium, hailing the €1.8 trillion deal as a momentous accomplishment, after weeks of fractious negotiations. Later, the parliament’s president David Sassoli addressed about 20 journalists in a small conference room, along with opposition leaders from Belarus—who had flown in from Warsaw, Vilnius, and other E.U. cities.

Containing COVID-19 under these conditions, in the lives of regular people, has proved extremely difficult.

Like other leaders, Macron has struggled to find a balance between allowing the French to celebrate Christmas, without turning the holiday into super-spreader event that could send COVID-19 raging again. When stores reopened on December 1, after a monthlong lockdown, thousands of people rushed in to do Christmas shopping, perhaps fearing another lockdown; outside Paris’s upscale Le Bon Marché department store, lines of shoppers stretched half a street block outside. The government has previously said they would lock down over Christmas if new COVID-19 cases rose above 5,000 a day. On Wednesday, France reported 17,615 new cases in a 24-hour period. So far, the government has yet to announce tighter pandemic restrictions.

The French government has ordered ski stations to remain closed during the holidays, as have the governments of Austria and Italy. Yet Switzerland’s ski resorts remain open—and many French will simply drive, or take a train, across the border, and head there instead.

More must-read stories from Fortune:

  • Graphene gets real: Meet the entrepreneurs bringing the wonder substance to market
  • When Broadway comes back: 5 ways the pandemic will transform the live theater industry
  • A national stay-at-home order? Where the public stands
  • Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, makes her debut as a startup investor
  • With COVID raging, why are we even still playing college basketball?

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Sydney Northern Beaches coronavirus cluster grows to 17; Tasmania stops NSW travellers from entering; WA imposes new border rules; French President Macron tests positive

French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID-19.

The news was confirmed by the presidential palace.

The brief statement did not say what symptoms Macron experienced, but that he “took a test “as soon as the first symptoms appeared.

It said he would isolate himself for seven days.

“He will continue to work and take care of his activities at a distance,” it added.

It was not immediately clear what contact tracing efforts were in progress. Macron attended a European Union summit at the end of last week, and he met Wednesday with the prime minister of Portugal.

There was no immediate comment from Portuguese officials.

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French President Emmanuel Macron tests positive to coronavirus

French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID-19 after a week of meetings with European leaders.

It is not yet known where he contracted the virus.

“The President of the Republic has been diagnosed positive for COVID-19 today,” his office said in a statement.

“This diagnosis was made following a PCR test performed at the onset of the first symptoms.”

Mr Macron’s office said he would isolate for the next seven days and would continue to run the country remotely.

A spokeswoman said all his trips had been cancelled, including an upcoming visit to Lebanon on December 22.

Mr Macron’s positive test comes just two days after France relaxed measures to curb a second wave of COVID-19, replacing a nationwide lockdown with a curfew.

Health authorities on Wednesday reported the highest increase in cases since November 21.

Mr Macron is the latest head of state to contract the virus.

US President Donald Trump tested positive in October.

Mr Macron’s office said the French President and his team were trying to assess where he could have contracted the virus.

Mr Macron was at a European Council heads of state meeting on December 10 and 11.

His schedule over the past week has also included a private dinner with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, during which he awarded him the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.

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French President Emmanuel Macron tests positive for coronavirus

French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID-19, the presidency said on Thursday, adding he would now self-isolate for the next week.

“The president tested positive for COVID-19 today (Thursday),” it said in a statement, adding he had been tested after the “onset of the first symptoms”.

Mr Macron will now self isolate for seven days in accordance with national regulations, it said. 

“He will continue to work and carry out his activities remotely.” 

More to come. 

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Dans une France qui vire à droite, Gérald Darmanin se révèle indispensable à Emmanuel Macron

PARIS — Il a déclaré la guerre à l’“ennemi de l’intérieur” islamiste et aux rayons halal des supermarchés. Il a lancé une opération qu’il a qualifiée de “massive” visant 76 mosquées en France, et cherché à restreindre la diffusion d’images de policiers. Il a aussi affirmé qu’il “s’étouffait” quand il entendait le terme “violences policières” — raillant un appel à s’élever contre la brutalité d’agents de police parti des États-Unis et qui a résonné de part le monde.

Gérald Darmanin, le ministre français de l’Intérieur, est au coeur d’une triple crise politique affectant les dernières étapes de la présidence d’Emmanuel Macron, et qui concerne les questions de l’islam, de la brutalité policière et de la liberté de la presse.

Et rien n’indique que M. Darmanin soit près de céder.

Cette semaine, le jeune ministre de 38 ans fait la couverture de Paris Match, signe sans appel qu’il a transcendé la bulle politique parisienne et pénétré la conscience du grand public. Le gros titre du magazine, “L’épreuve du feu”, figure avec une photo du ministre, l’air pensif.

Vilipendé à gauche et objet de méfiance pour ses anciens collègues de droite, M. Darmanin, le ministre qui a la charge de la police française, s’est rendu indispensable à M. Macron à un moment où une majorité de Français réclament l’ordre et la fermeté face à ce que le président nomme “l’islamisme” après une série d’attaques terroristes.

“Pour Emmanuel Macron, il est sa caution à droite”, estime Boris Vallaud, un parlementaire socialiste de premier plan, au sujet de M. Darmanin. “Il y a une exigence d’ordre en ce moment. Sur tout le terrain des libertés publiques, de la religion, il laisse son ministre aller de l’avant — jusqu’au jour où il tirera sur la laisse.”

Pour l’instant, la laisse n’a pas été tirée.

Pugnace et ambitieux M. Darmanin est, pour M. Macron, l’homme tout trouvé pour ce moment politique qui voit la France prendre un net virage à droite. Des jihadistes isolés assassinent des citoyens français; M. Darmanin ordonne un coup de filet sur les musulmans suspectés d’extrémisme. La police est accusée de brutalité et de racisme dans la foulée d’incidents violents; M. Darmanin prend leur défense, avançant qu’ils ont surtout besoin d’équipement et de conditions de travail meilleurs.

“Je voudrais leur dire qu’on leur doit aussi des excuses dans la façon dont nous les mettons dans la rue et qu’ils accompagnent au péril de leur vie des missions extrêmement difficiles”, a-t-il déclaré lors d’une audition parlementaire le mois dernier. Il a qualifié d’“actes indicibles” le passage à tabac filmé d’un producteur de musique Noir par la police, tout en insistant sur le fait qu’ils n’étaient que le fait d’“individus”.

La police souffre surtout d’un manque de formation, dit-il. Le prédecesseur de M. Darmanin au ministère de l’Intérieur, Christophe Castaner, a été remercié cet été pour avoir suggéré qu’il y a un racisme au sein de la police, provoquant la fureur des syndicats. M. Darmanin ne court pas ce risque. Il doit maintenant répondre à la colère des syndicats envers M. Macron, qui a osé faire des suggestions similaires lors d’une interview vendredi dernier avec le média en ligne Brut.

L’intervention du ministre à l’Assemblée Nationale a eu pour effet d’apaiser les puissants syndicats de police, de rassurer le crucial électorat de droite de M. Macron, et de faire signe à ceux qui ont été choqués par les violences. Elle ne peut que conforter la marche en avant d’un caméléon politique dont beaucoup pensent qu’il vise l’Elysée. Par certains aspects, elle reproduit l’exercice d’équilibrisme auquel se livre M. Macron, toujours sur la corde raide entre la gauche et la droite.

M. Macron était si désireux de garder M. Darmanin — qui était ministre de l’Action et des Comptes Publics avant de passer à l’Intérieur en juillet — qu’il a rangé de côté une accusation de viol contre le ministre datant de 2009 pour laquelle une enquête est toujours en cours.

Lors d’une interview cet été, interrogé sur l’opportunité de rouvrir l’enquête sur les accusations, il a répondu qu’“il ne m’appartient pas d’en juger”. Entre lui et M. Darmanin, a-t-il ajouté, “il y a aussi une relation de confiance, d’homme à homme.”

Ces mots ainsi que la nomination de M. Darmanin ont provoqué l’ire des féministes françaises, qui ont organisé des manifestations sur plusieurs jours, lesquelles ont pris fin dans l’indifférence générale. Les documents du tribunal et les témoignages dans cette affaire peuvent suggérer que M. Darmanin, avant de devenir ministre, s’est servi de sa position d’autorité pour obtenir des relations sexuelles avec une femme venue quérir son aide. M. Darmanin a reconnu les relations mais a insisté qu’elles étaient consenties.

L’affaire a été largement éludée — les avocats du ministre ont récemment obtenu le report d’une comparution devant les enquêteurs. M. Darmanin s’attèle désormais à une tâche à laquelle son prédécesseur avait échoué, celle d’apaiser la police dand un pays qui détient le ratio de fonctionnaire des forces intérieures par habitant parmi les plus élevés d’Europe. M. Macron sait bien ce qu’il doit à la police nationale française: ce sont les tactiques toujours plus fermes qui ont permis de mettre un terme au mouvement populaire des Gilets Jaunes qui menaçait sa présidence en 2018.

“Darmanin est quelqu’un qui s’adapte aux circonstances de façon très impressionnante”, juge Pierre Mathiot, le directeur de l’Institut d’études politiques de Lille, où M. Darmanin a étudié, et qui connaît ce dernier depuis plusieurs décennies.

“Donc, il a compris qu’il doit être ministre de la police. Et non pas des personnes en relation avec elle”, dit-il. “Il se sert de cette crise pour obtenir davantage que Castaner pour la police.” Il ajoute que M. Darmanin profitera de la proposition de restreindre la diffusion d’images de la police pour obtenir davantage de moyens pour celle-ci.

Les détracteurs de M. Darmanin ont du mal à le situer sur l’échiquier politique, voire culturel, illustrant combien il est utile à M. Macron, qui revendique lui-même une place au centre. Est-il à droite? Du centre? Un peu à gauche, peut-être, en raison de ses origines familiales modestes?

“C’est difficile de dire s’il est autoritaire ou non”, estime M. Mathiot. “Je ne pense pas qu’il soit si différent de Macron.”

M. Darmanin ne fait certainement pas partie de l’élite économique et culturelle qui garnit les rangs des collaborateurs du président. Son père tenait un bar à Valenciennes, dans le nord industriel, et sa mère faisait des ménages à la Banque de France. Le grand-père musulman de M. Darmanin avait combattu aux côtés des Français lors la guerre d’indépendance de l’Algérie, et son deuxième prénom est Moussa.

Les collaborateurs de M. Darmanin ne l’ont pas rendu disponible pour une interview. Si une demi-douzaine d’anciens collègues parlementaires de son ancien parti de centre-droit n’ont pas donné suite à des demandes d’interview, certains n’hésitent pas à fait part en public de leur amertume à son égard pour les avoir quittés pour rejoindre M. Macron.

“Il vient d’un milieu très populaire”, a expliqué l’un des principaux collaborateurs de M. Darmanin lors d’une interview, “et son idée, c’est que vous devez parler davantage aux gens. Il est l’incarnation de la droite ouvrière.” Le collaborateur a demandé à ne pas être cité nommément en vertu des règles qui prévalent dans les ministères français.

Avant que M. Macron ne le recrute en 2017, ses références politiques étaient incontestablement à droite. Il a dirigé la campagne de l’ancien président Nicolas Sarkozy lors de sa tentative infructueuse de retour au pouvoir en 2016. Il a été maire de Tourcoing, la ville industrielle au nord du pays (ses collaborateurs disent qu’il y retourne souvent arpenter les marchés pour dialoguer avec ses anciens administrés). Il a aussi été député de son département d’origine, au nord, dans les rangs du principal parti de centre-droit.

À l’Assemblée, il succédait à Christian Vanneste, l’homme politique qui lui avait mis le pied à l’étrier comme stagiaire mais qui avait été forcé par la suite de quitter le parti — M. Vanneste dit qu’il a démissionné — en raison de son homophobie flagrante. Saisissant l’occasion, M. Darmanin s’est présenté contre lui et a gagné. M. Vanneste ne le lui a jamais pardonné.

“C’est un carriériste et un arriviste absolument pitoyable”, dit M. Vanneste. “Il m’a trahi, c’est tout. On ne mord pas la main qui vous nourrit.”

D’autres ont un point de vue quelque peu plus nuancé.

“Ce qu’il essaie de faire, c’est de saisir les opportunités du moment pour se placer”, tempère le député centriste Charles de Courson. “Et Macron tente de s’en servir, pour écraser la droite.”

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