President Emmanuel Macron of France is stuck in a “ketchup moment” whereby the effects of his reforms are still stuck inside the bottle but with a “thump” will soon come flying out in one go, his interior minister has claimed.
Gérard Collomb, the interior minister, issued the ketchup analogy to explain the lack of tangible benefits of Mr Macron’s reforms while also dealing his presidency a fresh blow by announcing his intention to step down next year to run for re-election as mayor of Lyon in 2020.
His reference to the physics of the famed bottled tomato sauce came a day after an MP quit his party, saying she felt as if she was “on the Titanic”.
Frédérique Dumas resigned from Mr Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move party because she said the government had “forgotten the fundamental principles of Macronism”. She added: “Some decisions come down to budget cuts. There is no ambition, no direction.”
The move by Ms Dumas, 55, a former film producer, reflects growing disillusionment with the president and impatience that his controversial and often painful economic reforms have so far failed to cut unemployment or significantly boost growth.
That followed the abrupt resignations in recent weeks of Macron’s popular environment minister who criticised Macron’s commitment to climate change green issues and his sports minister.
Mr Macron is now more unpopular than any recent president at the same point in office, with an approval rating of just 19 per cent, according to a new opinion poll. He is struggling to restore his reputation, tarnished by his handling of a scandal over a security aide filmed beating up protesters, accusations of cronyism and cabinet confusion.
Opponents of the pro-business president accuse him of favouring the wealthy in his drive to inject new life into the French economy. He scrapped a wealth tax and reduced corporation tax while cutting housing allowances for the poor and raising taxes on pensions.
He has hit back with a “plan for the poor” and by unveiling plans for a major overhaul of France’s national health service on Tuesday.
Unemployment, meanwhile, is still stuck at nine per cent and growth lower than expected. In his defence, Mr Collomb said the centrist president was stuck in a "ketchup moment": "You thump the bottom of the bottle and, for a time, nothing happens. Then comes a point when the whole lot comes out,” he insisted.
But even Mr Collomb, one of Mr Macron’s closest allies, acknowledged recently what he called a "lack of humility" in the Macron administration – an assertion that “irked” the president who summoned him for a secret meeting over the put-down, aides told BFMTV.
Mr Collomb, a political veteran who dropped his post of Lyon mayor – held for some 17 years – to team up with Mr Macron, said sweeping electoral victories tended to create a climate where leaders appeared to lose touch with voters’ concerns.
"They are times when the atmosphere is rarified, where there is less listening (to voters)," said the 71-year-old, likening the current period to one he experienced when the left swept to power under Francois Mitterrand in 1981. “The Titanic is not far off the iceberg,” quipped Laurence Sailliet, spokeswoman of the opposition Right-wing Republicans party.