July 20, 2018
We apologise for yesterday’s late delivery. Our server had a serious breakdown that was not fixed for another two hours.
Our main story is Emmanual Macron’s first big political scandal. Often a political scandals start when no one sees them coming. We initially thought this was a story for the summer holidays, but reading through today's vast media coverage there is something much more disturbing going on.
What we know is that Alexandre Banella, a security official for Macron, was filmed hitting and stomping on a young man at the May 1 demonstrations in Paris, as revealed by Le Monde. Banella had permission to observe the demonstrations, but he acted as if he were part of the police force, wearing a police visor and dragging protesters. Banella never was a police officer but a bodyguard during Macron's presidential campaign. He was accompanied by another bodyguard who works for the Élysée Palace occasionally, and who also was seen violently dragging protetesters. The police forces around them did not intervene but seemed to condone their behaviour. There are even more disturbing details about Banella's past, as dug out by Mediapart.
This week the reactions were fast and furious. The public prosecutor opened a preliminary inquiry yesterday into a raft of possible charges including violence by a public official, pretending to be a member of the police and illegally using police insignia, according to the Guardian.
It was a feast for the opposition. Politicians on both the left and right sides of the spectrum accused the government of a cover-up. Jean Luc Mélenchon called for a vote of no-confidence against the government last night, for which he would need another 41 signatures on top of his MPs to reach the necessary 58. He said earlier that, if one accepts that anyone can be allowed to pretend to be police alongside the police, there is no longer a state of law. There were hearings in the senate and assembly all day yesterday.
It looks like this scandal is not dying out soon. Even if there is no confidence vote against the government, it is politically damaging for Macron’s squeaky-clean image, and discredits his promise of an exemplary state. The compounding of errors reveals a failure in the chain of command in Macron's administration. This is a problem for a president who campaigned on the basis of ethical conduct and uncompromising probity. Macron needs to do more to extinguish the fire this time, writes Nicolas Beytout.
We also have stories on the wider implications of the decision by the Spanish supreme court to withdraw its European arrest warrant for Puigdemont; on whether the IMF will stop Greece from going back on labour reforms; on whether European counter-tariffs for US goods are for real; on why preparations for a no-deal Brexit are actually a positive development; on a Dutch-led alliance to reduce funding for the EIB; and on confirmation bias in the Brexit commentary.