Becoming a minister, an ambition that no longer makes you dream

Becoming a minister an ambition that no longer makes you

Let the most anxious be reassured: there are still ministers in France. The Borne government, with no less than 41 members, is even bloated, far from the refrains on the need to compose a “tight” team. The quantity is there, yes, but the quality? Would the corridors of the executive now be strewn with second knives? Because there is a phenomenon that does not date from Emmanuel Macron but which has been gaining momentum for a few years now: minister? No thanks, I have better things to do somewhere else. The current head of state, despite his notorious ability to seduce, has also had to resign himself to it: “In the face of reality, he realized that becoming a minister was less attractive”, recognizes the one of his former advisers at the Château. “Two important personalities refused to become minister in May 2022”, confides one of his close friends.

And if he was, at least in part, accountable for these refusals of obstacles? In the spheres of power, the evils of love tend to be rumored… Let’s be honest, presidents have never considered their ministers too much. We still remember Jacques Chirac presenting François Fillon to the Emperor of Japan, each time getting the title of his portfolio wrong… Does Emmanuel Macron really know what each of the members of the government is doing? Does it only interest him? He meets them less and less – some have even never spoken with him one-on-one, underlines an adviser between malice and a touch of perversity.

In the aftermath of the small anger piqued during the first Council of Ministers of the year, during which the president summoned his team, in essence, “not to reason in averages” and to “put themselves on the side of the people”, a member of the government grumbled: “He is right to say it, but are we really above ground? I do not think so. He is far from all that. He has no idea what I am doing, yet less when I travel several times a week to see them, people.

The HATVP in the viewfinder

Better to be a long-time companion, or in charge of an eruptive file, to expect to glimpse more in depth the complex thought of the head of state, which ultimately few manage to decipher for lack of sustained dialogue. Few are the lucky ones who can claim to know what is hidden in his heart. In front of his current Minister Delegate for Health Agnès Firmin Le Bodo, responsible for carrying out the national debate on the end of life – the great societal reform of this second five-year term – Emmanuel Macron has, another example, never sketched his own feelings. On the question. In fact, this presidency does not contribute to revaluing the job…

We will certainly not make people cry in the cottages by evoking the constraints imposed on any new member of the government. But the ever-increasing demand for moral exemplarity and transparency, coupled with disenchantment with the function, multiplies discouragement. A newcomer from 2022 says his son was refused an internship on the grounds that the employer was afraid of being accused of favoritism by taking on a minister’s son.

Eric Dupond-Moretti admitted in front of a friend that he did not reveal his entire estate to those close to him because such was his freedom, but he was forced to make it public when he accepted the proposal of go to Place Vendôme. Just type his name on the site of the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life (HATVP), this body born of the Cahuzac affair during the Holland quinquennium, to find out all about his “remuneration and bonuses”. “Let’s throw away what a minister was able to earn in a previous life, which is the fruit of his work, it’s no longer information, it’s voyeurism, annoys the guard of the Seals. Transparency maybe, transperence no.”

Difficulty getting out of government

Don’t talk to Macronie about this HATVP, she would really want to smear it. “We have to break this thing, it’s a machine to prevent people from making a career in the public”, says a minister who, a year ago, warned the head of state: “It’s going to cost us very expensive in terms of political talent.” In June 2020, the Ivorian-French business leader Tidjane Thiam was approached to replace Bruno Le Maire at the Ministry of the Economy: he had met Emmanuel Macron, with whom he maintains regular contact, to discuss the case. White cabbage for the President of the Republic, the ex-CEO of Credit Suisse having given up “because of the HATVP and his commitment in Côte d’Ivoire”, explains a former Elysée.

There is something almost as difficult as going under the caudin forks of the HATVP to get into government: going under the caudin forks of the HATVP… to get out of the government and get a job. It would seem that the verb pantoufler (which, according to the Larousse, consists only of leaving the service of the State for that of a private company) has a slight pejorative connotation. Julien Denormandie, to whom prestigious portfolios were offered in May 2022, chose this time to leave the government so as not to be “an obligated politician” and to favor his family environment. The HATVP issued a five-page opinion to specify the framework in which he could exercise his new functions in a start-up and an investment fund.

The ministers are also amazed by what happened to their now ex-colleague, Frédérique Vidal (in charge of higher education between 2017 and 2022), prevented from joining a business school and its foundation. . In the last days of the previous five-year term, the Secretary of State for Digital Cédric O, who was known to have resigned, strangled himself by describing how, for the sake of combating conflicts of interest, the HATVP advised ministers to go work in American rather than French companies… In the government, it is even whispered that one of its members avoided following a section of his ministerial sector so as not to be prevented from returning to work there later.

The Assembly, the new heart of power?

And if, since last June, internal promotion had also lost its luster? There is a reward which, in principle, the most assiduous, competent parliamentarians and, that does not spoil anything, media representatives of a presidential majority expect: to receive a phone call from the Prime Minister, the secretary general of the Elysée or , more rarely, from the President of the Republic, to be offered a position in the government for services rendered. But in this completely exceptional new context of relative majority in the National Assembly, the nerve center of power has shifted.

The executive now has in front of it a force with which it is forced to negotiate, under penalty of putting itself in danger. Parliamentarians once again have the ability to lead the country’s destiny. “It is a hypothesis that we have discussed with some: if tomorrow we are offered to enter the government, we will refuse the invitation, assures one of the leaders of the Renaissance group at the Palais-Bourbon. are in the Assembly, we have much more leeway, more weight to assert our positions, than if we were secretaries of state with stuffed cabbage or even deputy ministers. There is no doubt, however, that one of them would fall for a prestigious royal position or in the top 10 of the protocol rank…

Because if some ministers reveal a form of loneliness mixed with disrepute, rare are those who regret having accepted for some time the attributes of power and the possibility, even reduced, of “changing lives”, as François Mitterrand claimed. “We had a real role in the takeover offer for Carelide [NDLR : entreprise nordiste de fabrication de poches de perfusion]. The real difference is that here we do”, rejoices Roland Lescure, former chairman of the Assembly’s Economic Affairs Committee who has become Minister Delegate for Industry. The executive would still bear his name well. But Bruno The Mayor is not far away, who often reminds us that eminent ministers can now be counted on the fingers of one hand.