Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The biggest threat to the French left? Emmanuel Macron

As the Socialist Party suffers heavy losses, the new president is heading for an absolute majority in parliament.

How do you say “landslide” in French? Emmanuel Macron’s new centrist party, La République en Marche – formed just over a year ago – is heading for a true “raz-de-marée” (“tsunami”), the French equivalent to what Theresa May tried, and failed, to secure in the UK general election last week.

And now picture something else. The entire French left is about to disintegrate. It's as if the Labour party disappeared overnight. 

With En Marche predicted to win as many as 455 seats out of the 577 composing the Assemblée Nationale, Macron’s victory is complete. A more than comfortable majority in parliament will ensure that his multiple planned reforms pass unchallenged in the house.

Such a parliamentary landslide would be historically unprecedented in French politics. Macron’s party would make up as much as 70 per cent of sitting MPs, according to AFP – the highest ever parliamentary majority for a French president.

After defeating both “traditional” main parties, the Socialists and the Republicans, in the first round of the presidential election, Macron’s landslide victory in parliament may finish them off. The French left, especially, is sinking fast, and if Macron succeeds in bridging “left and right”, it may well be wiped out for a very long time.

In the first round on Sunday night, the Socialist Party came fifth, with the staggering score of 7.44 per cent of the vote – behind En Marche (32 per cent), the Republicans (21.2 per cent), the National Front (13.2 per cent) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s hard-left party La France Insoumise (11 per cent).

That no party of the left managed to beat the centre-right or the far right is concerning enough – but in the case of the Socialists, the defeat is crushing.

Just like in the presidential election, where Socialist Benoit Hamon struggled with only 6 per cent of the vote – a sign of the disaster to come – the party’s heavy losses have shown in the first round of the parliamentary vote.

In the North, historically a Socialist territory due to industrial and mining lands, the party has lost all 18 of its MPs in the first round. Twelve of Francois Hollande’s former ministers, including Hamon himself, have been eliminated. Big names such as Cécile Duflot, Aurélie Filippetti, and Emmanuelle Cosse have been voted out – imagine the moment Ed Balls lost his seat but with Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Chuka Umunna losing theirs, too. Le Monde has counted 95 Socialist MPs who have already lost their seats and more could risk theirs in the second round, including Hollande’s former education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

Macron’s En Marche is wiping out the French left faster than anyone imagined. As for Mélenchon’s Insoumis, they are lagging behind Le Pen’s National Front. They may ultimately win more seats than the far-right in the run-up, but their voice in parliament, and thus of the Socialists, will be a noise in the background.

Both parties refused to make their presidential bid a common cause and opened the way to Macron, who will parade in parliament without a credible opposition. What’s left of them after 19 June will have to unite to survive.

Show Hide image

Stephen Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising space makes him almost as bad as Trump

The physicist's inistence on mankind's expansion risks making him a handmaiden of inequality.

“Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves,” Stephen Hawking has warned. And he’s not just talking about surviving the UK's recent run of record breaking heat. If humanity doesn’t start sending people to Mars soon, then in a few hundred years he says we can all expect to be kaput; there just isn’t enough space for us all.

The theoretical physicist gave his address to the glittering Starmus Festival of science and arts in Norway. According to the BBC, he argued that climate change and the depletion of natural resources help make space travel essential. With this in mind, he would like to see a mission to Mars by 2025 and a new lunar base within 30 years.

He even took a swipe at Donald Trump: “I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen.”

Yet there are striking similarities between Hawking's statement and the President's bombast. For one thing there was the context in which it was made - an address to a festival dripping with conspicuous consumption, where 18 carat gold OMEGA watches were dished out as prizes.

More importantly there's the inescapable reality that space colonisation is an inherently elitist affair: under Trump you may be able to pay your way out of earthly catastrophe, while for Elon Musk, brawn could be a deciding advantage, given he wants his early settlers on Mars to be able to dredge up buried ice.

Whichever way you divide it up, it is unlikely that everyone will be able to RightMove their way to a less crowded galaxy. Hell, most people can’t even make it to Starmus itself (€800  for a full price ticket), where the line-up of speakers is overwhelmingly white and male.

So while this obsession with space travel has a certain nobility, it also risks elevating earthly inequalities to an interplanetary scale.

And although Hawking is right to call out Trump on climate change, the concern that space travel diverts money from saving earth's ecosystems still stands. 

In a context where the American government is upping NASA’s budget for manned space flights at the same time as it cuts funds for critical work observing the changes on earth, it is imperative that the wider science community stands up against this worrying trend.

Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising the solar system risks playing into the hands of the those who share the President destructive views on the climate, at the expense of the planet underneath us.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496