On 7th May the French will vote for either Le Pen or Macron. The result may be good, bad or ugly for not only France but her relations with Grande Bretagne.
It will be ugly if the great democratic disillusionment in France is accelerated further. This disillusionment with democracy probably started with the election of Mitterand, was not helped by Chirac, was then amplified by the election of Sarkozy and finally multiplied by a hundred by Hollande. All of them didn't do what they promised, some of them cheated on their wives or had multiple marriages, and a few exercised nepotism by appointing their children or the mothers of their children. The natural extension of this disillusionment would be a Le Pen victory.
It would mark a break from France’s democratic values of liberty (loss of economic freedom and soon thereafter our political freedom), equality (all minorities will suffer) and fraternity (when you judge a human by his colour or his religion you are doomed to fail). It would damage France for years to come. It could lead to a potential Frexit and undermine any economic stability in the region. It may even lead to war.
For the UK too, this would be a disaster. Rather than having a friend at the negotiating table, any British government would have nothing to say to an extreme right government and any negotiation with a weak EU would be more likely to hasten the pace of European economic destruction. The world will survive but not as the comfortable, relatively calm, place we know.
Mais oui, it could still be good!
If the French vote for Macron, particularly if he secures a legislative win as well, although to date he has only a new party and few candidates. The many promises of reforms are likely to fail and like Matteo Renzi in Italy, this will hurt the image of democracy. But if this excitable young man becomes another ‘middle of the road centrist from the left’ unable to deliver in a Europe on the edge – a bit like the Hollande socialist government - many will be disappointed.
In possibly the best re-branding exercise ever performed, Macron has ‘re-formed’ the socialist party in a similar way Tony Blair re-shaped 'New Labour' twenty years ago. This may or may not work. If it does work, this new party, ‘En Marche’ would have a lot in common with the current UK Tory government but as noted above may have few potential national members of parliament.
And then the ugly...
Notwithstanding the success of a man who seemingly started from nothing with a clear message of unity, his group will probably end up being weak, caught between the centre right and some extreme left support with the same current socialists in the middle. This likely coalition will be hard to govern but even harder to undertake reform with.
An unreformed France stays poorer and less influential. It will be more insecure and likely to be more aggressive towards any protection of British interests (Macron also sees the value of attracting financial services out of the UK). That France will not be a leader in the EU on a par with Germany and will probably fail to push for EU reforms, will add to the acceleration of the democratic disillusionment. That is why five years hence the evil forces of the extremes will stand ever stronger against the forces of good, which have maintained our safety and security since the end of the Second World War.
So the 7th May matters almost as much as the 8th June. France, the UK's oldest foe turned close friend (who can forget the closeness of the governments of Cameron and Sarkozy) may return over the next decade to being the annoying neighbour. In the current context, where the UK has to befriend the Trump White House or the Saudis for some business, this French election cannot be good news if it fails.
One thing that may provide a flicker of hope is if the French parliamentary elections held in June deliver a solid conservative government. That would probably help deliver the reforms Macron has promised. The president traditionally nominates as prime minister the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly (this would be true for Le Pen too although she has already announced that she would name a small time conservative Dupont Aignan as prime minister, a deft move that could hurt Macron). If either of them however got a strong conservative majority intent on carrying the reforms of Francois Fillon, then the new president could well have to follow a national programme that is not their own.
Jérôme stood as an independent candidate for the French legislative elections in 2012. He was educated in London and Edinburgh and runs his own business in financial regulations and regulatory technology in London - http://www.lavenpartners.com/
Of a centre right background, Jerome used to be a member of the UMP. More recently he was a member of the Alain Juppe Committee 2017. He supported the presidential bid of Francois Fillon in the recent presidential elections.