Between Elisabeth Borne and her ministers, the story of a meeting that is cut short

Pension reform where are the last talks before the presentation

Normally, after a victory acquired at the cost of long efforts and ample sacrifices, a team unites around its captain. And since according to Élisabeth Borne, the adoption of the pension reform via article 49.3 is one of them, as she said this Tuesday morning at the Élysée, it should be the same for members of the government. Only, the times are not quite normal. The victory may not be so straightforward as that. And between the Prime Minister, who has a series of meetings with the president, parliamentarians, his ministers, and part of his team, there was water in the gas in the aftermath of rejected censure motions. Story of a small fracture. Of a release?

All of the full-time ministers – the incumbents, in short – are seated around the large dining table at Matignon. They were invited to lunch at 1 p.m. by Elisabeth Borne, officially to take an overview of their respective files and to probe “how they see things” in this period of political crisis, according to one of the participants. More informally, to show, too, the image of a united government and in support of their leader, as the television cameras present at the start of this working meal can attest. Elisabeth Borne arrives late, around 1:20 p.m. Very quickly, some find that something is wrong. The Prime Minister seems to grow impatient with each speech. “From the third intervention, she tells us ‘Make it shorter'”, says a minister. Another participant: “She had only one desire, not to be there.” The meeting will disappoint many present.

The Minister of Health François Braun reports on the success of the system allowing young men under the age of 26 to obtain free condoms, that of the Ecological Transition gives an update on the government’s “water plan”… Some of their colleagues, more political, stamp their legs. Is it really time? Is there not something more urgent? According to a guest, Gérald Darmanin and Olivier Dussopt insist more on the posture to adopt at this time when the majority has few allies: emphasize measures that provide the executive with quick gains and avoid the slightest provocation in future speeches. The clock is ticking…

Rima Abdul Malak takes the floor: “I would like to say…” Culture will come back: too late, it’s over. Élisabeth Borne explains that she has to slip away: “Anyway, not everyone would have had time to speak, for those who remain, send me notes”, she says as she leaves. the table after a 50-minute meeting… The head of government must prepare the Questions to the government at 3 p.m. “It was 2:10 p.m., that leaves time, grumbled a minister. As a team building meeting, I’ve already seen better…” Obviously, the cohesion of the team does not come out of the meeting increased. “It was supposed to be a happy lunch, but at some point a few of us were wondering if we were going to end up having a fight,” adds another.

After having attended the majority meeting at the Élysée Palace early in the morning, after having participated in the meetings of the Renaissance, MoDem and Horizons groups, it is easy to imagine that Elisabeth Borne could lack patience and feel a small hint of fatigue. But it was not just the behavior of the head of government during this lunch that upset her ministers. Maybe they were even a tad irritated before setting foot under the table…

Some of them have read the website of the World this Tuesday morning. And, unsurprisingly, they twitched on remarks by Elisabeth Borne reported by the newspaper : “I am at the head of a government half made up of morons”, would have dropped in private the head of government after the announcement of his first government, which did not yet have as many deputy ministers and secretaries of state than today. Stupefaction. Morons… The expression is appreciated at its fair value in government ranks. “As long as you don’t feel like it, everything is fine, laughs a minister. But how can I put it? Was there a need for that in addition to his statements of the day (claiming “the right to ‘use the word victory’ after 49.3)”? “I spontaneously decided which side I was on :)”, another texted.

Press and communication advisers then turned to the cabinet of Borne in Matignon. He replies that “it is not the Prime Minister’s vocabulary”. “No, it’s true, usually she says ‘knows**‘, adds a member of the government. Nobody is surprised at the same time, concerning her, it adds to the sympathetic character that we know her.” Another, happy not to be concerned because not being part of this first batch of ministers, adds: “It’s is exactly his vocabulary…”

When questioned, those around Elisabeth Borne deny the content of these remarks and the mini-psychodrama they caused. “The Prime Minister saw this article during the Government Questions with her ministers and rather laughed at it”, indicates one. A version called into question by one of them, who assures that the episode “went very badly”. The group lives well… And didn’t need that at the moment.