The one who managed Nicolas Sarkozy’s communication throughout his conquest and then his exercise of power remains a professional listened to in the matter. He had also been approached for a time by Emmanuel Macron’s team to re-enter, but he had refused the job. Originally from Nantes, Franck Louvrier prefers to devote himself to his local elected mandates, namely the city of La Baule, where he was elected mayor in 2020, and the Pays de la Loire region, of which he is one of the vice- presidents. And, as the ship rocks, he remains committed to “his” party, Les Républicains. In the moment of political tension that we are experiencing, his expertise is relevant. Franck Louvrier is the guest of our weekend political interview.

Le Point: What is your reading of the political situation?

Franck Louvrier: France is reformable in the years to come provided that its leaders do things in order. We are a conservative country that has always succeeded in adapting to changes in the world, but each time in a brutal way. Hence, by the way, the action of “motion of censure”, which clearly means a strong act of opposition. To avoid the current crisis, before launching the debate on pension reform, we should have discussed the evolution of our relationship to work. An upheaval has accelerated with the pandemic. The “work more to earn more” that allowed us to win with Nicolas Sarkozy is no longer in tune with the times. Now it’s about working less to live better. We can clearly see this in the movements of the French people with the phenomena of deurbanisation. Work is less and less an end in itself, but a means.

Many commentators insist on the crisis side of the diet. Are we really there?

Is Emmanuel Macron right to be intransigent? Is this the right communication strategy?

Emmanuel Macron has adopted the phrase of American writer James Baldwin: “You can’t fix what you don’t face. “The President of the Republic reforms by confronting, it is a constancy of the Fifth Republic. The challenge for him is to take on the reform while continuing to act. From the moment you experience the events, France comes to a standstill. We must show determination for the reforms that are essential to the future of the country. And no one can think that the pension reform is not to be done. The main strength of a head of state today is his personal energy. It was Nicolas Sarkozy’s asset, it is Emmanuel Macron’s. This energy linked to convictions, François Hollande did not have it, and that is why he put us in the trap on nuclear power.

Why did Emmanuel Macron need to say during his speech that the social partners did not want a compromise, at the risk of antagonizing a moderate like Laurent Berger?

Emmanuel Macron is not an old hand in politics. He holds an Anglo-Saxon speech, sharp, camped on his positions. The problem is that in a time like this, when there is gas in the air, you have to be careful not to ignite a flame. That said, the Head of State also invited everyone to get back around the table. From the moment you speak in the middle of a social conflict, you take 100% of the risk. The President of the Republic chose this risk rather than the policy of the empty chair. At the Élysée, there is necessarily a distance with the people; Emmanuel Macron wanted to reduce it by intervening at the end of the democratic process. To get out of a crisis, you need a razor with several blades. I imagine the president is following a multi-step strategy.

What advice would you give him?

But if the president is disavowed, he will have to leave, as de Gaulle did…

Yes, it’s true. This is why even Nicolas Sarkozy did not use this constitutional tool. The difference, of size, is that Emmanuel Macron cannot compete in the next presidential election anyway. Playing the Gaullist card of the referendum presents an institutional and personal interest and would allow the return of political debate. The president thus gives the floor back to the people. It is also a good response to the growing abstention in elections and the desertification of political parties. This is an immediate return to the substantive debate.

Emmanuel Macron said he regretted one thing: not having been able to convince. From your perspective, was pension reform a bad sell?

I will not put anything on the back of pedagogy. The pension reform has been well prepared, it is recurrent, everyone knows the issues. The right approach, as I said at the beginning of our interview, would have been to become aware of the evolution of work. Explaining to people that we’re going to have to work harder is a truism since we’re living longer… And that’s good news!

A divorce consummated with the intermediary bodies, an absence of solid local relays, is Emmanuel Macron a president more alone than ever?

He won the presidential election not thanks to a party but thanks to him alone, by what he embodied, and because he represented an alternative to the extremes. Emmanuel Macron’s equation is not the same as that of his two predecessors. Which has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest difficulty is that it blows harder on the side of rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, because everything rests on the shoulders of the head of state.

Do you see any flaws in his communication device?

There is a flaw that is intrinsic to the presidential position: as soon as you enter the Élysée, 80% of your agenda is occupied by the international. Every president has a propensity to have to travel the world. And therefore to give the feeling that he cares less about the French. However, it is on the interior subjects that they await you. Emmanuel Macron needs to reorient himself on national issues. In this regard, a president cannot act by delegation.

How is a standoff with the street managed from the Élysée?

The basic principle is that you cannot go out, otherwise you risk tensions with demonstrators… You must therefore compensate by playing more with the intermediary bodies, and in particular the media. Then it is vital to move the fixation abscess, to move on to other topics.

The party to which you still belong, Les Républicains, does not come out of the sequence so much grown up. He even seems more and more in agony. How to avoid death by asphyxiation?

I remain very attached to the Republicans, and moreover I am president of the Federation of Loire-Atlantique. However, it is clear that we no longer form a political family but a political apparatus of autoentrepreneurs. I knew a political formation where Jacques Chirac, Philippe Séguin, Nicolas Sarkozy lived together; they had often different, sometimes opposing ideas, but they knew how to come together on the essentials. The right can only win if it makes alliances. We are the minority of the minority in the National Assembly. Either we ally with the components of the presidential majority, or we go to the far right. For me, the whole issue is to continue to reform our country with the presidential majority. Jacques Chirac had indeed made an alliance with François Bayrou, and Nicolas Sarkozy with Christine Boutin and former members of the Socialist Party. The other European countries almost all work like this with coalitions and government agreements, why would there be a French exception? If we do not assume the alliances, we will end up torn like the PS.

On the pension reform, we can say that you missed the mark of the alliances…

Éric Ciotti, Gérard Larcher, Bruno Retailleau, Olivier Marleix supported the text on pension reform, but the principle was assumed too late. It’s better to take a position upstream, especially with regard to our supporters, rather than negotiating at the “truck’s ass”… We wander too long between majority and opposition, and we thus find ourselves in a position of permanent instability.

Yes, there are four years left. Emmanuel Macron in his recent intervention proposed an enlarged government, we must seize this opportunity for the country. The next presidential election will be won against the extreme right on republican right ideas. The pension conflict is not a social struggle, but a battle over work values, therefore a right-wing battle.

Would you be ready to be Emmanuel Macron’s minister?

(chuckle) That’s not the issue right now. I am very happy as mayor of La Baule and vice-president of the Pays de la Loire region! The reformist majority in this country is not populist, it is situated between the presidential majority, the right and the centre. Often a sheet of cigarette paper separates us. We are at a crossroads: either our party assumes a secession for strategic divergence, or it disappears.