The last Prime Minister of François Hollande challenges, in a book to be published on October 18, the advent of a "new world" which would have exceeded the traditional right-left divide.
From December 6, 2016 to May 10, 2017, Bernard Cazeneuve was the third and last prime minister of François Hollande's five-year term. An experience of six short months that the former head of government has chosen to recount in a book (Every day counts. 150 days under tension at Matignon, Stock, to be published on October 18) in the form of a political journal. From the abandonment of François Hollande to the victory of Emmanuel Macron, he analyzes this extraordinary presidential election from the inside, but he refutes the advent of a "new political world".
You reveal in your book that François Hollande informed you of his decision not to stand again six days before his official announcement, on 1er December 2016…
François Hollande informed me of his decision during a trip to Nîmes on November 25, 2016. In the car, on the way to the airport, he told me that he had thought a lot and that his decision was irrevocable. He asked me to keep it all to myself, which I did.
Read also: Cazeneuve: a book in the form of a chronicle of a submerged world
What weighed the most in the impediment of François Hollande? The slingers? The bursting of the left? You mention “the methodical betrayal of the egotics”. Who are they ?
All those who thought, at one time, that their personal destiny was more important than the future of our political family, than the trace we would leave in history, or than the strength of our institutions, in a particularly difficult context for the country. The divisions of the socialists, the play of ambitions have been a slow poison. Even if certain debates have been able to stir up these divisions, I am thinking in particular of that on the forfeiture of nationality.
Was Emmanuel Macron one of these "egotics"?
We cannot attribute to Emmanuel Macron what is attributable to the socialists themselves and which results from what they have become, collectively, over time. I rather think that it is because the socialists have divided that a path has opened up for him.
On the other hand, when one is appointed minister by the President of the Republic, one owes him total loyalty. One cannot therefore make it a priority to clear a path for oneself. This is my conception of the state and institutions, whose classicism I fully endorse.
You speak of "transgression", which can be a bridge to "betrayal"...
I have no bitterness, nor any desire to settle accounts or set myself up as a lesson giver. When you are a member of a government, you can try to put forward your point of view, it is human.
I think, however, that one cannot do it every day in a transgressive way because in the end, indeed, the line between transgression and betrayal becomes tenuous.
Emmanuel Macron was in the state apparatus for four and a half years, at the Elysée [as Deputy Secretary General] or at Bercy. I always found that he had great intellectual vivacity and real qualities that created a bond between us. But I refused, at one point, to support an approach in which I could not recognize myself, out of loyalty to the President of the Republic and to my political family.
You call yourself “vintage”. We get the feeling that you don't believe in the idea that a "new world" was born with the election of Emmanuel Macron...
I have been classified as "old world" by anyone who considers politics to have started with them. By temperament, I am very wary of all the flies that fly and that we take for new ideas. I think, for example, that the right-left divide, the disappearance of which is the ferment of this so-called “new world”, will continue. I fear that over time, the claim to overcome this divide, does in reality hide a propensity to be simply right.
Nor do I believe in ahistorical visions, which disregard the major currents of thought and their roots in the country. You don't cut the threads of history like that: from this point of view, I feel quite a Mitterrandist, who knows maybe even a Marxist, because Marx was right to think that the memory of the dead presides over the action of the living. I believe very deeply in that. And we only show the way well if we know perfectly where we come from.
How do you view the anti-terrorist law which has just been passed?
When I was in Beauvau, we had a debate on the intelligence law which raised questions about the risk of mass surveillance or infringement of public freedoms. We have decided to send the text to the Constitutional Council. There is a similar debate today.
The President of the Republic can appease this debate by referring this law to the Constitutional Council, which will say whether it complies with the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
I also think that we must avoid including in an anti-terrorism text subjects which come under the law of foreigners. But if I had to position myself on this text, I would have voted for it, after having amended it, because on the fight against terrorism, the government must be supported and national unity prevail.
The prefect of the Rhône was sacked after the attack in Marseille. What's your reaction ?
Henri-Michel Comet is a great servant of the State, like all the prefects of the Republic who have shown, in recent years, a devotion which has impressed me and which has aroused my gratitude and my deep respect. .
The fight against terrorism is difficult because the fear aroused by the barbarians of Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State organization] sows suffering and sorrow and the State must be irreproachable. If there are any shortcomings, they absolutely must be corrected, but this must be done in a relationship of trust and not of mistrust with regard to the civil servants who are on the front line.
For my part, I know that they give the best of themselves, that they need to be supported, and that this support is the condition of their effectiveness.
Would you vote for the budget?
On the budget, because I am on the left, I first ask myself the question: is what is proposed fair? At the same time as the government explains that it has no room for manoeuvre, it finds a way to make more than 5 billion euros in tax cuts for the benefit of the richest French people, by virtually eliminating the solidarity tax on wealth (ISF) and by reducing taxation on capital income! At the same time, the general social contribution (CSG), in particular that of retirees, is increasing and the assisted contracts which have a social utility are seriously planed.
Mention is made of the additional purchasing power resulting from the reduction in social security contributions for employees. But it will be partly paid by the employees themselves who will also see their CSG increase. It is also unclear how civil servants will benefit from this increase in purchasing power since their regime is different.
The government is therefore caught up in the game of its contradictions, because one cannot be everything at the same time. I would therefore not have been able to vote for this budget.
The government reproached its predecessors, therefore you, for having left public finances in a pitiful state...
When we came to power in 2012, the budget deficit was 5,1%. Five years later, it is around 3%. It therefore fell by 2 points, while we had to face the continuation of the crisis and the terrorist attacks forced us to take decisions intended to increase the means of the security forces and the armies.
The communication from Bercy's ministers on public finances was inelegant and proved to be inaccurate – particularly with regard to growth forecasts.
Is the policy pursued right or left?
She's not on the left, that's for sure. She is even on the right, I regret it, because I also know that if the feeling of injustice wins, the reforms will be compromised. When the French hear "reform", they will understand "retreat".
However, the country needs reforms and this risk cannot be taken, except to increase tensions within society and fuel extremism. Faced with these challenges, social democracy must gain in strength, and the left in credibility.
Because the left to which I adhere and which carries within it the ethical requirement of Pierre Mendès France is that of hope, of righteous indignation. It is not that of all the anger or verbal excesses which are like so many dead ends and renunciations of a demanding conception of politics.
You are now a lawyer. Politics, is it over?
I took a step back, it's true, and let a new generation succeed me locally. But I hope that the left of government finds its place. For this, collective logics must prevail and egos fade away.
I invite the governing left to rebuild itself, to affirm what it is, and to do so in the name of modern humanism. I am convinced that there will be a spring for her. I will help as I can for its advent because what we are has not disappeared.
Every Day Counts is also a book about the end of power. Your pages are imbued with nostalgia, even melancholy…
I am melancholic and nostalgic by temperament. Which doesn't mean I'm living in the past. But the end of the five-year term, it is true, was a period when there was sadness because we felt that what we had built collectively, since François Mitterrand and which was part of a long tradition, could disappear.
Is it difficult to leave power?
I am not addicted to power or politics. On the other hand, I have a passion for the State and our country. The way in which politics is declined in France, with its excesses and its excesses, this obsession to the grotesque of communication is far from my convictions.
I think that true modernity is appeasement and also a certain sobriety and modesty: not the erasure of the right-left divide but the possibility, without denying oneself, of building coalitions in the interest of the country or face each other with respect. Respect is a beautiful concept. I could have called my book “Each word counts”, because if we believe that words engage, we have to be careful with the ones we use. But this is not the choice that was made. More classically, we preferred the majority fact in its most summary form.
Are the words "brothel" or "lazy", recently used by the Head of State, likely to appease?
I am thinking of all those who have a political voice. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, for example, lowers, by dint of excess and insults, political speech. The President of the Republic, for his part, embodies the entire nation. He is sentenced to detention.
Politics is not about saying everything you think at all times, but never saying the opposite of what you think, which is different. Emmanuel Macron says he wants to speak truth. But the employees of [the Creuse equipment supplier] GM & S, I know them, I visited them and I saw up close the anguish that gnawed at them. I can say that they have been particularly reasonable during this whole crisis. So, if we want to tell the truth, we must rather pay tribute to their spirit of responsibility.
The idea, conveyed in his time by Nicolas Sarkozy, that a good president is necessarily transgressive, is not fair. In a country that needs to see its forces galvanized to initiate reforms, transgression creates tensions that could be avoided.
You tell the story of this very special night at the Elysée, on the evening of the second round, when François Hollande sees the face of the person who will replace him appear on a television screen...
It was both moving and sad. I was concerned about what the president might feel. It was the end of a moment for him. And I felt that he could, despite the image he gave of himself, experience it painfully.
I was concerned not to be intrusive but not to leave him alone. I felt like I was with him when some people started looking the other way.
Source: © Bernard Cazeneuve: "The policy is not on the left, it is even on the right"