January 26, 2022

School strike: Blanking in the eye of Hurricane Omicron

POLITICS – How do you recognize a minister in trouble? He is the star of Questions to the Government. Tuesday, January 11, the first five deputies who spoke in the hemicycle challenged Jean-Michel Blanquer and the national representation on the ubiquitous health protocols that complicate the lives of parents and make the bazaar reign at school since the start of the school year.

A moment of tension that reflects the current concerns of the Minister of National Education. Heckled at the Palais Bourbon, half-heartedly disowned by Jean Castex and Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Michel Blanquer, whose annoyance is no longer a secret, should know, this Thursday, January 13, the first massive strike of the five-year term in establishments school.

The opposition even predicts an unprecedented mobilization “since May 68”, with 75% of striking teachers announced … Supported by the parents of the students. A union in the dispute, rare enough to be underlined, which will not settle the affairs of the tenant of the rue de Grenelle, long a strong link in Macronie, formerly described as “vice-president”, finally jostled by the upheavals of the Covid -19.

Macron “gives the point”, Castex takes back control

Is it the curse of his post that catches him a stone’s throw from the presidential election? Jean-Michel Blanquer in September broke the record for longevity at the Ministry of National Education of the Fifth Republic, held since 1967 by Christian Fouchet. A small feat with a function deemed difficult for someone who prides himself on being associated with several strong markers of the five-year term, the reform of the baccalaureate in mind, the duplication of classes or the famous “open school” in times of pandemic.

Yes, but now, the year 2022, crucial if it is, has started badly for him. The minister has been under fire from criticism since Sunday, January 2 and his interview -published first in a paid format- in the Parisian, during which he announced the new sanitary protocol planned to apply a few hours later. A timing that ulcerated teachers and school directors when the complexity of the rules ended up placing the school – and the parents – under strain.

Rectorates need more anticipation and more time to communicate with schools upstream.Emmanuel Macron at the Parisien on January 4

Result: the images of endless queues in front of pharmacies caused a stir, the government simplified its copy three times in less than ten days, and Emmanuel Macron “gave the point”, according to his formula, to a teacher who criticized the turn of things. “Rectorates need more anticipation and more time to communicate with schools upstream,” he admitted during an interview with readers of the Parisian the day after this complicated return to school.

“Jean-Michel Blanquer was affected, obviously, it is not pleasant”, then confides a member of his cabinet in the columns of L’Express in reaction to the words of the Head of State. Another sign of this difficult pass, it is Jean Castex who was responsible for announcing, Monday, January 10, the third (and last) version (for the moment) of the famous protocol, by inviting himself to the Journal of 20 hours from France 2.

A recovery in hand to ease tensions in the world of education, no doubt, but which is also the result of “the low confidence placed in Blanquer when it comes to communicating on the Covid crisis”, wrote Politico, Tuesday, in his newsletter. So much so that some, within the executive, now nickname the minister “Jean-Michel Apeuprès”, we learn from the same online media. For the uninitiated, it is the name borrowed from a character of Kad Merad, in the early 2000s, who stands out for his ability to remember “roughly” the words of his songs.

Jean-Michel Bouc emissary?

More seriously, it is true that the outputs of the Minister of National Education have often lacked clarity, or accuracy, since the start of the health crisis. Until recently, before the start of the January school year, he announced that several tests would be necessary for case-contact students to return to class, before being contradicted during the day by his office. Quirks, on such a serious subject, which do not escape the opposition.

The boss of LR deputies Damien Abad did not hesitate to castigate “a humiliation” on Tuesday at the Palais Bourbon, the day after the head of government’s TV broadcast, while the PS, LFI and Yannick Jadot are calling for his resignation. For the green candidate, who spoke on Wednesday, Jean-Michel Blanquer showed “too much contempt, improvisation, lack of anticipation” to stay at his post.

Faced with this avalanche of attacks, the main interested can count on the support of some, within the majority. “Certainly there has been a floating week, and a lot of parents and teachers have struggled. But we can’t say it’s chaos either. We only have 2% of classes closed because of the Covid ”, argues Roland Lescure, the president of the Finance Committee in the Assembly, for whom,“ we are severe ”with the minister.

“The health situation is tense. As long as the schools are kept open, there is a risk. Imagine if a child dies? What will we say? Especially since we are in a society of judicialization … So we follow scientific advice ”, maintains a heavyweight of the majority who sees“ no problem Blanquer ”.

He has a good back. He is still at the end of the chain, after the health authorities, the health defense council etc …Roland Lescure, President (LREM) of the Economic Affairs Committee at the Assembly

And at the highest peak of the state? “We are all very supportive of Jean-Michel Blanquer. We are moving forward like a pack since the start of this crisis, ”said the day before the event, Gabriel Attal leaving the Council of Ministers, referring to“ collegial decisions ”to fight the pandemic, as if to clear his colleague.

The temptation to share, or even to blame others, is never far away. “He has a good back. He is still at the end of the chain, after the health authorities, the Sanitary Defense Council, etc. ”, emphasizes Roland Lescure. This is why he finds himself refining a protocol at the end, when others proposed to close schools! ”

Tensions arise at the Council of Ministers

Words that resonate with the line of defense of the principal concerned. “The protocol, I did not invent it on a corner of the table. This is the consequence of what the High Council of Public Health says ”, he replied, Tuesday on BFMTV. A week earlier, he sent a text message to his colleague Gabriel Attal so that he could specify live, on France Inter, of which he was the guest, that the new rules had indeed been sent to the “educational network” a few hours before the interview in The Parisian. Without, however, convincing education personnel.

More delicate still, the “pack”, to use the word of the spokesperson of the government, starts to show some cracks. And the lemonade, in private, turns a little sour, as evidenced by the altercation that occurred with his colleague at Health Olivier Véran, Wednesday, on the sidelines of the Council of Ministers.

He’s been really under pressure for a few days. The announcement of the health protocol by the Prime Minister was seen as a disavowalA ministerial adviser

According to The Parisian and BFMTV, the two men, who are said to have sometimes stormy relations, raised the tone, Jean-Michel Blanquer seems to reproach his colleague for not having defended him enough in this bad patch. He “spoke to her in a confused manner about an article evoking their conflict during the meeting last Friday,” said a witness to the scene on a daily basis. Response from Olivier Véran: ”Listen, Jean-Michel, you have to calm down, we have to unite. We have to hold out in the media storm, but we have to calm down ”.

A scene revealing the tension that reigns a few hours before the massive mobilization of teachers. And the feverishness of the Minister of Education? “He has been really under pressure for a few days”, blows a ministerial adviser who returns from there to “the announcement of the new protocol by the Prime Minister”, “perceived as a disavowal”.

Jean-Michel Blanquer “did not only make friends in the government with his hard line on secularism”, affirms in passing our interlocutor “which can give the feeling that he is isolated”. And his participation in a controversial conference devoted to his new hobbyhorse, “wokism”, on January 7, in the midst of the cacophony on the application of the protocol at school, does not help this perception.

“It annoys yes, and for a long time”, concedes even more frankly a faithful of Emmanuel Macron, quoted by AFP, “But it will have been the symbol of what the President of the Republic wanted: the duration.” Will it still be in three months, if Emmanuel Macron is re-elected? The question is sure to arise if the anger continues to mount, from kindergarten through high school. And maybe even before?

See also on The HuffPost: Blanking under fire from criticism in the Assembly for its protocol