May 24, 2022

a video apology… and a clarification of the controversy

BLANK. While Jean-Michel Blanquer is under fire from critics after announcing the new health protocol before the start of the new school year from his vacation spot, Ibiza, the Minister of National Education defended himself on the 8 p.m. news from TF1 this Tuesday evening.

[Mise à jour le 18 janvier 2022 à 22h04] “I didn’t break any rules.” Jean-Michel Blanquer tried to defuse the controversy over the announcement of the new health protocol before the start of the school year from his vacation spot, Ibiza, on January 2. “Is it normal or not to take a vacation for a member of the government? I don’t think anyone can think that it’s not abnormal”, declared the Minister of National Education on TF1, this Tuesday. “I didn’t break any rules. Things wouldn’t have changed if I had stayed in Paris. I took four days off and worked during those four days.”

On the question of a possible resignation, Jean-Michel Blanquer replied “that you have to keep your cool”. “The opponents play on the symbolism. It may be a bit of a mistake, the opponents play on it”. He still recognized the symbolism of the chosen place. “If the place had to be changed, yes, I would change it, because I can clearly see the connotation it has. open school.

He was two hours from Paris. Yes, but he was not in Normandy, Champagne, Somme or Loiret. No, between Christmas and New Year, Jean-Michel Blanquer did not go green in the countryside around the capital but opted for the shores of the Mediterranean in the Balearic Islands: direction Ibiza. If it was not a question of idleness as the Iberian Peninsula knows them in summer, the destination is a task, a symbol of decompression in the middle of the Omicron wave and a few days away from a return to school under close surveillance. The atmosphere had already been tense for weeks between teaching professionals and their boss, the announcement of a new untenable health protocol the day before the start of the school year added fuel to the fire, the successive changes of rules the following days fanning the flames before an explosion of anger when the tenant’s holiday on rue de Grenelle off the coast of Spain was made public by Médiapart on Monday January 17. A resort from where he unveiled the new protocol.

Since then, criticism has rained down on this weighty minister of Macron’s five-year term. Once again put in difficulty by the opposition which calls for his resignation, jostled again by teachers’ unions who want to change bosses and even dropped by some within the majority on condition of anonymity, Jean-Michel Blanquer tries to save face, especially since Macronie is officially uniting behind one of their own. “There is, I recognize, a symbolism. I could have chosen another place. The symbolism, I regret it”, conceded Jean-Michel Blanquer to the National Assembly, Tuesday January 18, 2022, defending himself however: “Did I have the right to take a few days off after this year? Are there any meetings that I didn’t do because of this? No. Would the decisions have been different? No more”.

What will happen to Jean-Michel Blanquer, in the light of a new strike in the school environment on Thursday January 20? Three months before the presidential election, the former rector of the academy should, barring an unlikely reversal of the situation, keep his portfolio until the end of the five-year term. With the national deadline fast approaching, Emmanuel Macron should not risk changing the boss of education, he who, despite all the controversies, managed the health crisis despite the disputes in the schools. Now is the time to turn around…

Jean-Michel Blanquer on vacation in Ibiza

Emmanuel Macron would have done well without this new controversy, a few weeks before the first round of the presidential election. Mediapart’s revelations about Jean-Michel Blanquer’s vacation in Ibiza give food for thought to the opposition, which points to the lack of preparation, consultation and professionalism of the executive on the crisis that is shaking National Education . The facts could almost be harmless: the minister spent 4 days of vacation in Spain, in Ibiza, from December 28 to December 2 last. But the government also knew how much, at the end of December, teachers and parents of students were worried about the high level of circulation of the epidemic at school and were waiting for concrete answers to deal with it. The new protocol, demanding and binding, had come the day before, from an article in Le Parisien – paying moreover. We now know that the minister gave it from Ibiza.

The executive, which had to fight for almost 5 years to try to erase an image of amateurism and elitism that cares little for the concerns of the French, can only be embarrassed by this episode. The SNES-FSU quickly judged publicly that the minister had shown “contempt for the entire educational community”. Not having anticipated these revelations or the effect that this would produce in public opinion is, in fact, quite astonishing. Was Matignon informed? Yes, according to the entourage of Jean-Michel Blanquer. “The interview with Le Parisien was done by videoconference on Saturday, then updated on Sunday before publication. This did not change the release time of the protocol. If he had been there [à Paris], he wouldn’t have done anything different. […] It was validated with the Prime Minister. The minister was in constant teleworking”, tries to sweep a collaborator from Le Monde. Another adds: “The minister had to be two hours from Paris, he was two hours from Paris. He was not in Timbuktu”.

Castex aware of Blanquer’s vacation in Ibiza

Still, the services of the head of government give a completely different story. “Matignon does not validate each other’s leave. We set a rule: that they stay in Europe, that they stay two hours from Paris, and that they can be contacted at all times”, specifies an adviser to the Premier Minister. A relative of Jean Castex still tells Le Monde that the Prime Minister was well aware, but that he would have warned Jean-Michel Blanquer of the potentially deleterious effects of this risk-taking. He would thus have “advised the minister not to go to Ibiza in this context of the explosion of the Omicron wave”. This Tuesday morning on CNews, obviously embarrassed, the government spokesperson tried to defend the minister, who was undoubtedly weakened. “I’m not here to lecture. There is a rule which is fixed, which is very clear, it is that you must be easily repatriated to Paris if necessary and that you must be permanently reachable, mobilized , to his task. I have no reason to think that this was not the case”, soberly commented Gabriel Attal.

As Le Monde reports, within the presidential majority, Jean-Michel Blanquer’s holidays are only variously appreciated. A deputy, close to Jean-Michel Blanquer, admits the minister’s political error: “Was his weekend a good idea? No. Do we cut off a minister’s head because that he left for four days, validated with the Prime Minister, and that he teleworked? No. Can we grit our teeth and move on? No choice “.