Political outsider? French President-elect Macron has ‘friends’ across British establishment
The 39-year-old former Rothschild banker has never held elected office. Despite being pitched as an outsider to the French political system, it appears he’s backed by powerful political and business figures.
From former British Chancellor George Osborne to Labour’s up-and-coming star Chuka Umunna, UK politicians are clamoring to flag their ‘close connections’ with Macron.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 earlier this week, Umunna was not shy in advertising their relationship. Explaining why he didn’t believe Macon’s victory could have occurred in the UK, Umunna slipped in that Macron had originally floated the idea of forming a new party, En Marche, with him before he actually went ahead and did it.
“Emmanuel spoke to me some time ago, before he set up En Marche, and kind of floated the idea by me,” Umunna said.
In a later BBC Newsnight interview, Umunna was coy when asked for more details about that conversation. “Well, I don’t want to betray confidences,” he said.
Osborne has also laid claim to a friendship with Macron. The former Tory chancellor says he formed a bond with the new French president when the pair were both finance ministers in the G7.
After Macron made it through the first round, the former chancellor congratulated his “friend” online. “Congratulations my friend,” Osborne tweeted.
“Proof you can win from the center. At last, the chance for leadership that France needs.”
Congratulations to my friend @EmmanuelMacron. Proof you can win from the centre. At last, the chance for the leadership that France needs— George Osborne (@George_Osborne) 23 April 2017
Former leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband was quick to cast doubt on how close the pair really are. Replying to Osborne’s tweet, he wrote: “Do not panic about this tweet. I guess @emmunelmacron has many friends. I also met him once…”
British peer and arch political spin doctor Peter Mandelson, known in some corners as the ‘Prince of Darkness,’ got to know Macron when he was an EU commissioner. He has showered praise on the new French president since his election win.
Speaking to the BBC before Macron was elected, Mandelson suggested he could be seen as an “heir” to former Labour leader Tony Blair after appealing to both the left and right of France’s centrist voters.
“It gives me great hope for France, and it gives me great hope for Europe,” Mandelson said.
Foreign interference? Cameron aide gave Macron campaign ‘top secret’ advice
Meanwhile, leaked emails reveal a former top aide to ex-Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron gave secret advice to Macron’s presidential campaign.
The Times reports Ameet Gill, the former director of strategic communications at Number 10, charged £15,600 (about US$20,000) for polling and “advisory services.”
Gill is a close friend of Osborne.
Leaked correspondence includes an email from Gill to Ismael Emelien, the 29-year-old “right-hand man” of Macron, described by Le Monde as an “essential cog in the campaign.”
In a message sent on April 19, Gill says: “Re the poll - it’s looking good. There are some circumstances where you may have given too many options, but leave that with us for now. We will try and get all the options in and won’t change anything without your permission.”
Emelien reportedly forwarded the message onto a colleague, stressing the need to keep Gill’s involvement secret.
“Thank you for keeping this top secret - nobody can see other than you and me.”
Macron & Umunna met during Clinton campaign
It’s not only in Britain where Macron appears to have friends in high places. Last year, WikiLeaks revealed that US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had been invited to a private working dinner with Macron and Umunna, who was aiming to become leader of the Labour Party at the time.
An email from a member of Umunna’s team, sent to John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, said: “Chuka Umunna … is in NYC on Thursday… he’d love to come by and see you and share his insights on why Labour did so badly in May, and what HRC [Hillary Clinton] campaign might take away from that.”
Sources close to Umunna confirmed at the time that he met Podesta and discussed the rise of ‘Corbynism,’ and the threat posed by Bernie Sanders – Clinton’s Democratic rival dubbed the ‘US Jeremy Corbyn’ because of his pledge to redistribute the country’s wealth.
After Macron was elected, Clinton took to Twitter to say: “Victory for Macron, for France, the EU, & the world.
“Defeat to those interfering w/democracy. (But the media says I can’t talk about that),” she added.
Victory for Macron, for France, the EU, & the world.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 7, 2017
Defeat to those interfering w/democracy. (But the media says I can't talk about that)