Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the first round of the French presidential election has been hailed “the new French revolution”. Rival Marine Le Pen knows she faces an uphill struggle to beat him in the run-off election on 7 May. Her response was to attack him, suggesting last night that he was a “hysterical, radical Europeanist” who was a stooge of the French elite and European establishment. She depicted herself, in contrast, as the patriotic champion of the people.
In a symbolic move, and a clear effort to broaden her appeal, she chose to step aside as leader of the far-right National Front party for the rest of the campaign. “Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate,” she told her audience in an interview on France’s main state TV channel.
But support for Macron is building, and he has been backed by almost all other parties, including President Hollande, after winning the first round vote. He is the favourite to win on 7 May but, as our chosen columns today reflect, what will happen if Macron gains power? As an outsider to the political system, he will face numerous obstacles, including building a base of candidates for the parliamentary election in June.
Meanwhile, markets have reacted positively to his win, with global stocks surging to a record high yesterday.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer will set out his party’s proposed Brexit negotiating strategy today. Labour would press for a different deal, prioritising jobs and work rights, and would seek an early deal on transitional arrangements to smooth the way for the UK’s departure. The party would also unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU residents before talks start.
Senior Brussels sources have told The Times that Britain will have to settle a demand for two billion euro over its failure to tackle customs fraud before it can agree a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU. European officials believe that HMRC is failing to curb Chinese crime gangs that systematically undervalue goods imported into the EU through Britain. (£)
The UK Government may face legal action after seeking to delay publishing its air quality plan until after the election, citing purdah restrictions. Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom told the House of Commons the Government initially asked for a delay to its publication because local authorities will need to play a "central role" in the implementation of the plan. Opposition parties have accused ministers of “hiding behind” election rules.
Former US president Barack Obama returned to the public stage yesterday. Speaking at the University of Chicago, he quipped “so what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” Obama pledged to concentrate much of his time to trying to fix America’s dysfunctional politics, as well as nurturing the next generation of leaders.
Business and Economy
Luxury UK shoe maker Jimmy Choo has been put up for sale after its owner decided to switch its focus from luxury goods to food and other consumer goods, such as coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. JAB, an investment company owned by Germany’s billionaire Reimann family, said yesterday it was seeking buyers in an attempt to increase value for shareholders. (£)
The world’s second-largest oilfield services provider Halliburton has reported its first improvement in quarterly revenues since the end of 2014. Growing demand for oil well construction and pumping services due to the resurgence of shale oil in North America boosted the company’s numbers, including a 24 per cent rise in income from North America.
Manufacturers have reported the strongest increase in orders in 22 years, helped by the fall in the pound, strong demand in Britain and the global economic recovery.
What happened yesterday
Global stocks surged to a record high yesterday on the back of Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the first round of the French election. The MSCI All-Country World Index, a measure of global stocks, jumped 1.5 per cent, overtaking its previous lifetime high as recorded last month. France’s CAC 40 surged to its highest level in more than nine years, up 4.1 per cent on the day to 5,268.85.
The FTSE 100 enjoyed its biggest daily rise since September last year, rallying 150.13 points to 7,264.68.
Columns of Note
The Financial Times tracks Emmanuel Macron’s political rise and suggests he has had equal doses of good luck and good sense in seizing his opportunities. But, with no party machine and no intimate knowledge of France’s constituencies, he will find it difficult to designate effective candidates for the parliamentary election in June. We can expect a period of political and institutional uncertainty.
In another FT comment piece, Gideon Rachman characterises the French election as a battle between nationalism and internationalism. He suggests that a likely Macron victory will be both good and bad news for the UK. Macron represents the strong and united EU that Theresa May’s government claims to want. However, this strength and unity is likely to be expressed through a tough line on Brexit. In contrast, a Le Pen victory could help to ease the problem of Brexit, since there might not be an EU left to leave.
Can we trust the opinion polls to predict the outcomes of the June election? Political opinion polls haven’t provided great accuracy of foresight recently. The Conversation considers how polls have evolved and whether we can trust them this time round.
Did you know?
Facebook researchers are exploring new technologies to enable people to type with their brain and hear through their skin. We may conduct our own tests with the typing of this briefing in the run up to the general election.