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Inside politics

Merkel and Macron know their audience

Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel both have adaptable, “unclassifiable” politics, says Joseph de Weck in Le Monde: he raised the minimum wage more than his socialist predecessor, but lowered taxes on wealth. She legislated that new parents can split 18 months of time off between them, yet voted against gay marriage. But they sell their policies very differently. Merkel avoids “the debate of ideas”; she describes decisions as “sensible” or says she has “no real alternative”. Macron, however, gives even his “most mundane decisions” grand ideological justification. When imposing the first Covid lockdown, he invoked “the primacy of human life over the economy”.

This has its problems. “Who makes you dream disappoints” – political storytelling can fall flat when it hits a brick wall of facts. It can also be polarising, as ideas “divide even more than reality”. But the “need to theorise” makes sense in France. Germany, which is used to being ruled by coalitions, quietly accepts inconsistency. But Macron leads a country that is fond of anarchic debate: in Cyrano de Bergerac, France’s most frequently performed play, the hero rejects compromise as an “old enemy”. Macron’s “magic potion” is to use a similar “panache” to hide his wily opportunism.

Putting the fizz into Cop26

Cop26 delegates from all over the world have been trying Irn-Bru, Scotland’s inimitable fizzy drink. The Zimbabwean presidential spokesperson bought trolleys of the stuff, but the Rwandan delegation were less keen: “It’s not very good. It’s like water with a strong sugar taste with a little bit of flavour,” one of them told The Guardian. Left-wing US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez begged to differ: “Oh my God, love it, love it. This tastes just like the Latino soda Kola Champagne.”