Are the gilets jaunes protests in France anti-environmental, as some are claiming, or are they mostly a cri de coeur about the disdain with which other people are regarded by metropolitan and cultural elites? In other words, are they more akin to Brexit than is comfortable for anyone to want to admit?
Macron - before the volte-face - was trying to save the world whilst ignoring voters. This is a tricky balance in a democracy. The UK has had a fuel tax escalator in place since the Blair government (peace be upon it), but the taxes haven’t been applied for a long time because of opposition from people whose disposable income they markedly affected. That is, just about everyone.
The Economist said yesterday:
“Under the Fifth Republic, the constitutional power invested in the French presidency makes the country’s leader at once the focus of inflated hopes, and of anger and disappointment. Mr Macron campaigned for office in 2017 as a political insurgent against the established political parties. Now, the rebellion is aimed at him. How he handles the current crisis could well determine his presidency.”
Meanwhile, as The Times noted this morning:
“Protests by school pupils in sympathy with the revolt intensified yesterday as buildings were set on fire and there were violent clashes with police in Lyons, Marseilles, Bordeaux and Orleans. Schools were blockaded in Creteil and Versailles ... .”
But their protests seem more about a restoration of curriculum privileges than anything else.