July 7, 2022

Macron and Bertrand get confused in front of the cameras, the confrontation becomes public

POLICY – Two minutes and thirty seconds. Since Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron had probably not known such a long and muscular handshake. Opposite, no American president, but Xavier Bertrand, one of his main competitors for the next presidential election in 2022.

It was by welcoming him to the Familistère de Guise, Friday, November 19, in Aisne, that the boss of the Hauts-de-France region, candidate for the LR nomination for the presidential election, strongly challenged the tenant of the ‘Élysée on the future of the Ascoval steelworks.

“The solution adopted is not satisfactory,” he first told the Head of State about the local company, saved from a relocation to Germany but still threatened, according to him, by a lack of competitiveness. “As you know, dear President of the Regional Council, the Minister (in charge of Industry) spent her day and night there”, replied Emmanuel Macron, before getting annoyed at the insistence of his interlocutor, who did not hesitate to cut him off in order to assert his opinion.

“You know perhaps better than all the others”, finally released the President of the Republic, offering, to the cameras, a scene of rare intensity for a formal reception, known as “republican”, often made of agreed dialogues and courteous exchanges. An electric atmosphere – underlined by the crackle of the flashes of the photographers – which is by no means trivial, five months before the supreme election.

On the one hand, Emmanuel Macron has not yet officially declared his intention to stand again. This does not prevent him from multiplying the speeches with campaign accents and trips … in the region led by Xavier Bertrand.

The President of the Republic began on Friday a mini-tour of four days in Hauts-de-France. It was also in the North, in Roubaix, that he had chosen, in September, to conclude the Beauvau of security, after having already made a series of trips in the region on the sidelines of the regional elections, three months previously. A ballot for which the tenant of the Elysee had also sent five ministers, including Eric Dupond-Moretti, facing Xavier Bertrand, in the hope of making him waver. In vain.

A way, for the Head of State, to invest the ground, in the first sense of the term, of the former minister of Nicolas Sarkozy? Without a doubt for the entourage of the candidate for the nomination of the Republican.

Opponent number one?

“Emmanuel Macron sticks to Xavier Bertrand’s shoes because he fears him. He knows that he is the only one who can beat him ”, whistles one of his supporters, the boss of the LR group in the Assembly, Damien Abad, in the columns of the World this Saturday. He is “the most dangerous”, confirms a macronist -with a covered face- in the evening daily, highlighting “a provincial image that contrasts with the president.”

None of this for the government spokesperson, who denies any electoral strategy. “If some want to see political issues (in this trip Editor’s note), let them say to themselves above all that the president of the region can thank President Macron”, replies Gabriel Attal to the Parisian, citing the rescue of the Ascoval company or the establishment of the battery mega-factory in Douai, as so many local successes to be credited to the President of the Republic.

On the other hand, Xavier Bertrand has every interest in staging this kind of offensive sequence, he who has been presenting himself for months as the candidate most able to beat Emmanuel Macron. Above all, the regional boss is not at his first attempt. In May 2020, he had already – ostensibly – refused to follow the health instructions of the Elysee by keeping his mask on his nose in front of the Head of State. A year later he had demanded – or prophesied – “a real debate” from his favorite interlocutor, still within the framework of these formal receptions.

His new pass of arms with the President of the Republic, much more electric than the previous ones, will have allowed him to establish himself as the main opponent to the Head of State and to gain a little height vis-à-vis Michel Barnier and Valérie Pécresse, his direct competitors in the race for the LR nomination. It remains to be seen whether this will last longer than two minutes and thirty seconds.

See also on The HuffPost: When Xavier Bertrand connects the about-faces on the LR Congress