AWhen the French prime minister appeared on the television screen late Thursday evening, he looked tired and unshaven. Even his assurance that the government is now fully ready to act and will “act tirelessly” sounds weak. The 34-year-old head of government had to fill a key position – the Ministry of Education – after just four weeks. He himself had described the school system as the “mother of all battles” with a view to the youth riots during the banlieue riots. “There was a feeling of unease,” said Gabriel Attal during the special broadcast on the France 2 television channel. The teachers’ unions, but also many parents, were outraged after Education Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra was caught in a lie right at the start of her term in office.
She claimed to have sent her eldest son to an elite Catholic private school because so many classes were canceled at the state school. It later turned out that her son was still of kindergarten age when he switched to private school. In addition, one of the son's teachers, now retired, remembered that the reason for the change was different at the time: the ambitious parents had definitely wanted to place the dreamy child in a higher preschool class. Oudéa-Castéra's apology had little effect. The head of government also admitted this. “The conditions to advance the school system were no longer present,” he said. Oudéa-Castéra can remain sports minister. President Emmanuel Macron has decided that his Ena comrade is irreplaceable before the Olympics.
The former Minister of Justice (2017-2020) Nicole Belloubet was brought out of retirement for education. Macron is thus causing the pendulum to swing to the left again. The 68-year-old lawyer, who was appointed to the Constitutional Council (2013-2017) as a socialist, headed the school authorities in Limoges and Toulouse between 1997 and 2005. This experience inspired her to write an article entitled “Does the Department of Education Should Be Abolished?”
In the article, she strongly criticized those who believed that school uniforms and a return to traditional claims to authority could motivate students to do better. “Those who are really confronted with educational tasks now know what is important: you have to break away from the rigid framework of frontal teaching and give the young people time and autonomy,” she wrote. Attal had announced that school uniforms would be experimented with in several hundred schools and promised: “We must bring respect and authority back into the classroom.”
Just under a month after the “new departure”, it seems as if the head of government can no longer remember his own resolutions. The promise of a streamlined government team has evaporated in the dispute with the most important alliance partner, Modem party leader Francois Bayrou. There is no longer any talk of the self-declared upper limit of 30 cabinet members. The list has swelled to 35 names, most of which are unknown to the French. Until the end, people haggled with Bayrou, who wanted to secure positions for his party colleagues. 40-year-old Jean-Noel Barrot (modem), who was previously responsible for digital affairs, is moving into the European Ministry. The son of the former EU Commissioner and Minister Jacques Barrot will also be responsible for German-French relations as Secretary General. Barrot is already the sixth European Minister. One of his predecessors, Clément Beaune, who most recently served as transport minister, is no longer a member of the government. Macron is said to have not forgiven him for protesting against the stricter immigration law.
The formation of the cabinet led to a rift with the leader of the Modem Party. The 72-year-old Bayrou even questioned the presidential majority. Without the 38 MPs from the Modem party, Macron would have to call new elections. After his acquittal in a party donations affair, Bayrou claimed an important ministerial office, but was then dissatisfied with Attal's offers and ultimately accused the government of not following a clear course. This is an impression shared by many French people, as the polls show. If there were presidential elections on Sunday, right-wing populist Marine Le Pen would come first in the first round with 36 percent of the vote, according to an ifop survey. If Prime Minister Gabriel Attal runs against her, Le Pen would narrowly win in the second round with 51 percent of the vote.