The new French prime minister, Gabriel Attal, appointed by Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, January 9th, just formed his government. While the mainstream press is talking about a “right-wingisation” of the political staff, this government is above all the result of political manoeuvring devoid of any coherent ideological perspective.
Gabriel Attal took over from Élisabeth Borne on Tuesday, January 9th. At the age of 34, he became the youngest prime minister of the Fifth Republic. His career path makes him above all a political activist who has had no real experience beyond that of ministerial cabinets and political parties. The international press emphasises his youth, but also his homosexuality: it is the first time that a gay man has reached this level of responsibility in France. Even though he doesn’t boast about it, the media’s insistence on discussing his homosexuality has a dual effect: it erects a sort of ‘palisade’ around him to make him inaccessible to critics—anyone who vehemently questions Gabriel Attal’s actions could be accused of homophobia; and it puts pressure on him to advance the LGBT agenda—a duty for a homosexual now in such a high position. It remains to be seen whether he will submit to this unwholesome game.
Emmanuel Macron and Gabriel Attal have announced their intention to appoint a “tighter team,” i.e., to reduce the number of ministers in office. This is a common strategy in France during mid-term ministerial reshuffles, to give the impression of new impetus and greater concern for efficiency. Gabriel Attal’s government currently has 15 ministers, compared with 42 in the Borne government, including ministers and deputy ministers. The number of ministers in the Attal government is likely to increase in the coming days, but only marginally.
The main ministries remain unchanged. Gérald Darmanin, minister of the interior, remains in his post, as do Bruno Le Maire, minister of the economy, Sébastien Lecornu, minister of the armed forces, and Éric Dupont-Moretti, minister of justice—despite being implicated in several judiciary scandals himself.
Stéphane Séjourné, one of Emmanuel Macron’s loyal supporters from the outset, has taken over the foreign ministry, combining his post with that of secretary of the Renaissance party. Until recently, he was in a relationship with Gabriel Attal, but their civil union contract (PACS) is said to have been broken off—which the parties concerned, when asked about it in November, neither confirmed nor denied. It is possible that the publicity surrounding this break-up was a political ploy to downplay the scandal of having two members of a couple, and a homosexual couple at that, so highly placed in a government—an unprecedented event.
The most talked-about appointment in this government is that of Rachida Dati, member of the Les Républicains party and mayor of the 7th arrondissement of Paris—in this respect Anne Hidalgo’s main opponent—as minister for culture. Rachida Dati is a strong personality, known for her outspokenness and fierce opposition to the socialist mayor of Paris. Her appointment caused a stir in artistic circles—actors, authors, and artists—who were not at all pleased to see a minister clearly labelled as being ‘on the Right’ and known for her hard-line stance on security and authority arrive in their preserve. Anne Hidalgo couldn’t resist sarcastically wishing “good luck to those involved in the world of culture, given the ordeals they are about to go through.” As a result of her appointment, Rachida Dati was instantly expelled from the Les Républicains party—she, who a few months ago castigated Emmanuel Macron’s camp, bringing together, in her words, “the traitors of the Left and the traitors of the Right.”
We must be wary of seeing this appointment, as some media suggests, as proof of Emmanuel Macron’s “right-wingisation.” In fact, it’s a case of political horse-trading, with little to show for it, to win the city of Paris, which remains Rachida Dati’s ultimate goal. By accepting the post of minister of culture in Gabriel Attal’s government, Nicolas Sarkozy’s former minister agreed to turn her back on her original political family in order to obtain the support of the Macronists in the next municipal elections in Paris, in 2026. Dati could then head a list uniting Les Républicains and Renaissance against Anne Hidalgo, thereby ensuring a Dati victory.
Another controversial appointment is Amélie Oudéa-Castéra’s arrival at the ministry of education, a portfolio that she will combine with that of sports, at least for the duration of the Olympic Games. The appointment a few weeks ago of Gabriel Attal to the education ministry brought some new blood and a certain dynamism to the overweight institution of the French administration. The arrival of Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, a complete stranger to the world of education, is a slap in the face of teachers and educational managers who see their ministry demoted in prestige and entrusted to a minister who is the wife of a banker and whose child attends Stanislas, the most prestigious private Catholic school in Paris. The new minister risks paying dearly in the coming months for her lack of legitimacy, should she feel like attempting any kind of reform.
Emmanuel Macron still has three and a half years left in office. The government has not undergone a major overhaul, and the Renaissance Party still lacks a majority in the National Assembly. Article 49.3 of the Constitution probably still has a bright future ahead of it—the last resort for a government without a course, built with a baroque assemblage of political coups devoid of any ideological backbone.