Emmanuel Macron, looking innocent after having compromised his promise to feminists to name a female PM.
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Macron said he wanted a female Prime Minister, so why did he pick a man?

Macron says he's a feminist. He must do better for women in his cabinet

He repeated it several times on the campaign trail: Emmanuel Macron, France’s newly elected and youngest ever President, is a self-declared feminist. During the months leading to his election on 7 May, Macron was vocal about gender balance within his campaign team and his party’s parliamentary candidates. Crucially, he declared in March that he “wished” his Prime Minister would be a woman.  

But in the week leading to his inauguration last Sunday, of half a dozen names rumoured to be in the running for “Matignon” (the Prime Minister’s residence), only two were women. Then the Elysée palace announced yesterday that Macron had chosen Edouard Philippe, the Republican mayor of the northern city of Le Havre.

“I will choose the most capable, the most competent,” Macron had said at the time he wished it would be “a woman.” Was there no woman Macron thought would be “capable” enough to earn the title of Prime Minister? French presidents have total freedom to name their PM – even, as Macron has done, so called “cohabitations” in which the President and the PM are from different parties.

And it's not just Philippe's gender that suggests an early watering down of Macron's committment to equality, it's the new Prime Minister's voting record. He abstained on the law legalising gay marriage and voted against allowing adoption for gay couples.

Macron successfully campaigned on a “neither left nor right” platform, but he very much needs the votes of the actually right-wing who make up half of the French electorate to win June’s parliamentary elections and rule effectively. Hence the moderate Republican Prime Minister: Edouard Philippe is follower of Alain Juppé, the most liberal candidate who ran (and lost) in the Republican primary. (Juppé himself wasn’t exactly PM material: Macron’s first reform is set to be the “moralisation of politics”, and Juppé was sentenced to two years away from public office for misuse of public money in the early 2000s).

Yet even with the necessity of naming a Republican Prime Minister, the party is not short of experienced women qualified for the job. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a Republican and former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy who ran for mayor of Paris in 2014, was one of the names that circulated last week. She has expressed support for Macron and called on the centre-right to “accept the hand he is offering” to rule France. The centrist MEP Sylvie Goulard, who backed Macron at the beginning of his presidential bid and organised his meeting with Angela Merkel last March, was another.

France has had only one female Prime Minister: Edith Cresson led Francois Mitterrand’s government for just one year, from May 1991 to April 1992. Michèle Alliot-Marie, the first woman to be named Interior Minister in 2007, also became the first female Foreign Affairs Minister in 2010, both during Sarkozy’s mandate. She remains the only woman to have held either position.

Until September at least, Macron will sit alongside Germany’s Angela Merkel, his closest international ally, and will face Theresa May’s in Brexit negotiations. He’s already compromised the ideal he set himself – a female PM. The least he can do, both for his own record and for France’s, would be to ask Edouard Philippe to pick a woman as Foreign Affairs Minister.

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"We are not going to change": Barcelona defies terror with a return to normality

After a attack which killed 14 and injured scores more, shock gives way to defiance and unity.

A perfect summer afternoon in Barcelona suddenly turned into a nightmare on Thursday evening, a nightmare that has become far too common in Europe in recent years. 

“I was having a coffee here [in Plaça Catalunya] and was about to go and walk down there like everyday, because I live just off the Ramblas”, says 26-year-old Eneko de Marcos, pointing down the promenade. “I stayed because I was waiting for a friend, and when she came we heard a big noise and then everyone was running."

Thousands of people, most of them tourists, had been ambling casually along the Ramblas, the most iconic of Barcelona boulevards, which descends from Plaça Catalunya to the old port and the sea, when a white van had mounted the pedestrianised centre of the walk and began driving into people. 

Even after the van came to a stop, leaving a trail of dead and injured in its wake, De Marcos and hundreds of others were trapped for hours inside bars, shops and hotels while the police cordoned off the area and investigated the scene.

Seeing the Ramblas and the surrounding areas completely empty of people following the attack is, for anyone used to the area, unreal and the first reaction for most has been shock. Barcelona had felt safe both to locals and tourists, which had been coming to the city in increasing numbers since last year, many perhaps trying to avoid other destinations in Europe seen as more at risk of attack. 

Shock gave way to confusion and fear during the evening. The van driver was still at large and a series of ugly images, videos and unconfirmed rumours about other attacks spread across social media and the news. The number of victims increased steadily to 13 dead and more than 80 injured of many different nationalities.

At 11pm the city centre and its surroundings were eerily quiet and dark. Few people were venturing on to the streets, and the bar terraces which would normally be packed with people enjoying the late dinners Spaniards are famous for were half empty.

The next morning Barcelona woke up to the news that after 1am that night the Police had stopped a second attack in the touristic beach town of Cambrils, an hour and a half away to the south. What was going on? The streets of Barcelona were still quiet, far too quiet in a city usually noisy and crowded, and again the terraces, so symptomatic of the Barcelona’s mood, were unusually empty.

“I always said something like this would never happen in Barcelona”, says Joaquín Alegre, 76, walking through Plaça de Catalunya the morning after with his friend, Juan Pastor, 74, who nods and agrees: “I always felt safe.”

But slowly fear had given way to defiance. “Afraid? No, no, no”, insists Joaquín. “We’re going to carry on like normal, respecting the victims and condemning the attack, but we are not going to change”, says Juan.

Little by little the Ramblas and the whole area started to fill up during the day. People came from all directions, all kinds of people, speaking all kinds of language. The day was beautiful, the sky was blue, there are no clouds in sight and it got hotter by the minute. It began to look like Barcelona again.

“It’s important not to show fear, that’s what (the terrorists) want”, says Emily, an 18-year-old from Dresden, in Germany, who landed yesterday at Barcelona airport with her mother a few minutes after the attack. She says people were checking their phones while still on the plane and then one girl said aloud there’d been a terrorist attack in Barcelona. “It’s important to come here (to Plaça Catalunya) at this time”, says her mother, Anna, 42, both of them sitting on a low wall at the square.

Next to them, where the Ramblas begins, people once again filled the boulevard full of shops and hotels, which many locals also see as a symbol of how tourism has gone wrong in Barcelona. But Catalans, Spaniards from elsewhere and foreigners mingled happily, feeling united against a common enemy. Many left flowers and lit candles at the feet of a big ornamental lamppost on top of the Ramblas, many others did the same next to the famous Canaletes fountain a little down the promenade. 

“We the people have to respond to this by getting out and taking the streets”, says Albert Roca, a 54 year old publicist, who’s decided to come against the wishes of his girlfriend, who told him he was crazy. “I took a picture of the Ramblas and sent it to her and wrote, ‘Look how many crazy people there are’.”

Just before noon the Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau visited the Plaça Catalunya with her retinue. She is a very popular figure who comes from civil society in a country where many citizens don’t feel properly represented by traditional politicians. Many people followed her carrying roses, a symbol of Barcelona, while they made their way into the square.

Shortly after, around 100,000 people packed Plaça Catalunya and its adjacent streets for a minute of silence begins for the victims. Only the flapping of pigeon’s wings overhead can be heard. And then an applause and a loud chant break the silence: “I am not afraid! I am not afraid!”, sang the people in Catalan.

Along with Colau in the centre of the square there was Carles Puigdemont, the head of the Catalan regional government and leader of the independence movement that has called for a referendum on 1 October, and along side them, King Felipe as the head of State, and Mariano Rajoy, the Prime Minister of Spain and a bitter political rival of Puigdemont. Seeing them standing together presents an image that until yesterday afternoon would’ve seemed impossible.

Very slowly people start emptying the square, where many still remain singing defiantly. “The attacks yesterday were a disgrace”, says a doorman just outside the city centre as Barcelona began returning to normality, “but we are going to carry on, what else can we do?”