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French Elections: Left Wondering

Macro Monday, French legislature in state of deadlock, Starmer's new cabinet assembled over the weekend, and Biden insists he's the man for the job.

Macro Monday
French Turnout is expected to have hit 60%, its highest since 1981, well up from the 2022 election where turn-out stood at less than 40%.

French Elections: Left Wondering

Against growing expectations that Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party could command a majority in the French National Assembly (having won the highest vote share in the country’s first round and winning the most seats in the EU elections last month), the highest turnout since 1981 looks set to deliver France a hung parliament.

The French legislature now looks to be in a state of deadlock, as the Ensemble leader in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has indicated that he will resign today. With the Olympics just round the corner, it looks possible that a caretaker government could be assembled, as the French electorate looks to see what happens next.

The hard-left New Popular Front alliance won the largest number of seats, having secured 182 seats in the 577-seat Assembly, but falling well shy of the 290 deputies needed to form a government. Jean-Luc Mélenchon nonetheless declared victory, saying that “The New Front Popular is ready to govern”. (The veteran politician has previously ruled out forming a coalition government with Ensemble – a position which has been shared by the incumbent PM form Ensemble, Gabriel Attal). Given that the New Popular Front has been described as an “uneasy” alliance of various parties, uncertainty remains over what a future French government commanded by them could look like.

Meanwhile, President Macron’s Ensemble alliance secured 168 deputies, subduing fears that the alliance could be wiped out following a disappointing first round. Macron faced heavy criticisms over the course of the month-long campaign for calling the snap election, with many considering that it was merely indicative of the President’s hubris.

However, as the Telegraphs’ James Crisp and Henry Samuel writes “Against all expectations, it appears his gamble ultimately paid off, although he has been left a lame duck in deadlocked France for the final three years of his term.”

Ultimately, Macron will be relieved that many of the polls proved wrong in suggesting that RN could win a majority. The National Rally alliance finished in third place with commentators citing the high turn-out and tactical voting as a key reason for the party’s lower-than-expected results. Pollsters still consider that Le Pen could do well in the 2027 Presidential election however, with Macron stepping aside given the two-term limit.

Cabinet Assembled

The new Cabinet assembled for first time over the weekend as the Prime Minster vowed to commence work “immediately”. With job cut fears from Tata’s Port Talbot steel works – which is losing £1m a day – back in the headlines, the new Labour government are now being confronted with the realities of governing, after fourteen years in opposition.

Alongside looking to stabilise the situation in Port Talbot, the Cabinet is understood to have discussed GB Energy, NHS waiting lists, overcrowding prisons and economy stability, alongside scrapping the Conservative’s flagship Rwanda policy. The Cabinet is also looking at easing planning restrictions with Rachel Reeves looking set to outline her intention to bring back compulsory house-building targets later today. This comes as the Government seek to build 1.5m houses over the course of the next parliament.

In case you missed it, the full list of Cabinet appointments can be found by following the link here.

Resolute Desk

Joe Biden is insisting that he’s not going anywhere. He was resolute that he’s the man for the job in a Friday night interview on the ABC News channel and that only the “Lord almighty” could convince him to quit…though as Peter Welch said to MSNBC – “We have to win this election. This isn’t a decision for the Lord almighty. This is a real-world decision for real-world people in politics who care about this country”!

The resolve from the president is having knock-on effects outside of the US, where Europe is now planning for Trump to get back into the White House. This will come into sharper focus this week as we’ve got a NATO summit in the US, where allies will be trying to get as much assurance from the US as possible, but also working up contingencies for supporting Ukraine as well as they can without support from the US.

To this point, David Lammy has already visited three countries since being installed as foreign secretary (Germany, Poland and Sweden) and is talking about bringing the UK into the European Defence Fund via a new UK-EU security pact. The closer alignment would not only mean sharing intelligence but would also bring the UK into the procurement circle for EU defence spending – which would likely be a lucrative outcome for the UK arms industry if he were to be successful.

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