Monsieur Hulot’s Mid-Life Crisis
The resignation of the French Ecology Minister made waves not only in France,
and rightly so. As number two in the government, and its most popular member by far, Hulot’s resignation, announced spontaneously during a radio interview, has given Macron’s government its biggest shock since July, when the president’s most trusted adviser was filmed beating up a demonstrator while disguised as a policeman. (Only bona fide policemen are allowed to do that, and the democratic process, duly shocked, surged into action, with round-the-clock live coverage of interrogations of those concerned in both houses of parliament, while the unfortunate psychopath, under judicial investigation for assault, illegal possession of a firearm, impersonating a police officer and whatnot had to make do with fawning interviews in le Monde and elsewhere.)
Coverage of Hulot’s resignation has been similarly thick and fast. The immediate cause was a presidential meeting about hunting at which Monsieur Hulot found himself face to face with an old enemy, a Monsieur Coste, spokesman for the hunting lobby and ex-consultant to two previous presidents. According to M. Hulot, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. According to M. Coste, the meeting passed normally, with Hulot and Coste addressing each other with the intimate “tu” as usual, and M. Hulot apparently relaxed and chewing gum. This raises two questions of interest to all those concerned about the environmental policies of the world’s fifth economic power:
1) What is President Macron doing, in between leading Europe and solving France’s insoluble economic problems of third-world-level unemployment and a record trade deficit, holding a two hour meeting with the hunting lobby? And:
2) Is it normal for a minister to chew gum during a presidential meeting?
We didn’t get answers to these questions from Monsieur Hulot, but he did explain why he announced his resignation live on radio. First: he hadn’t decided whether to resign or not when he entered the studio. And second: he didn’t want to announce his decision face to face with the president or the prime minister, because he was afraid they might persuade him to change his mind.
Does that sound familiar? Not wanting to discuss with people that might have a contrary opinion? Not that M. Hulot’s decision was exactly life or death. Continue to be humiliated in every cabinet meeting in exchange for his ministerial salary and a chauffeur-driven limousine? Or resign, and continue to draw a ministerial salary and benefit from a government chauffeur-driven limousine for several years to come, while writing your memoirs? Life is made of hard choices.
The media have been covering Monsieur Hulot’s ministerial record more or less non-stop for three days. On the positive side: banning all exploration for fossil fuels on French soil; banning the sale of petrol-driven vehicles from 2040; progressively raising the price of gas, electricity and diesel fuel; reducing France’s reliance on nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2035 or so; banning glyphosate (Roundup) in three years’ time in France, as opposed to five years in the rest of Europe, giving France’s agricultural competitors a competitive advantage, but the moral disadvantage of being the slaves of horrid Monsanto. On the negative side: not managing to convert the country to a zero- or minus-growth non-nuclear anti-capitalist renewable organic economy overnight. No-one’s perfect.
But how come a minister who has raised fuel prices and wants to ban the motor car is the most popular member of the government? And I’d add: how come the minister whose responsibilities include energy, transport and everything to do with the environment has never been interviewed once about:
– a three month strike on the French railways in protest at the government’s submission to European rules about competition, causing misery to millions of commuters
– a massive strike on the national Air France airline, due to restart soon, and likely to send the company into liquidation
– continual flooding of the Paris area due to the lack of reservoirs upstream?
Simple answer: because ministers decide when they’re interviewed and what about. And M. Hulot’s popularity is based entirely on his notoriety as an ex-presenter of TV documentaries about the environment. M. Hulot is Mr clean air and squirrels. No-one knows that he is also Mr higher fuel prices, because no-one tells them. In a government of Macron groupie nonentities and aging retreads from previous administrations, Hulot is a beacon of the new economy, financing his three houses and seven petrol-driven vehicles from the rent he receives as owner of the “Ushuaia” brand name (derived from the name of his ecological TV series.) Every bottle of Ushuaia perfume made from the gonads of rare Amazonian parrots is a penny in his pocket, and a feather in the cap of his Nicholas Hulot Foundation, currently run by the journalist ex-mistress of a socialist ex-minister and would-be president. Will M. Hulot take back control of his multi-million Ecolo foundation? Will accusations of rape by ex-president Mitterand’s granddaughter dent his popularity? The future of the planet may depend on the answer to such questions.
Because sure as hell no one is connecting the state of the planet to the political decisions of the minister of ecology, whoever he or she may be. Though “who” is the big question of the moment, and the current betting is on: Daniel Cohn-Bendit, anarchist hero of the May ’68 Paris uprising, and recently retired leader of the Greens in the European Parliament.
Dear Sweet Gaia, please make it Dany. Nothing could lead more certainly to the downfall of the Green Blob and the European Project than the projection of this senile Franco-German pseudo-Marxist nonentity to the summit of power. As leader of Europe’s Greens he was everyone’s favourite far left media fart. This leftwing extremist has never hidden his admiration for Macron: his tax breaks for the super-rich; his “reform” of anything that might make life more bearable for France’s uncounted unemployed; his unfailing support for anything – massive illegal immigration, massive interference in the politics of the Middle East – that was guaranteed to make the world a worse place. With unemployment around 10% and growth at 0.8%, France is facing one of its regular recurrent crises. The sight of this unshaven slob on TV 24/7 barking his green orders to pull together to solve the climate crisis is just what we need to tip the country into full revolutionary mode.
How sad that M.Hulot can’t work and chew gum at the same time any more.
Geoff – thank you that. I enjoyed it immensely.