French President Emmanuel Macron appeared before national television to try to convince the public that he understands ordinary French people’s struggle to make ends meet.
But his critics were quick to note that Macron spoke from the luxurious 365-room Élysée Palace, the French presidential residence and workplace that costs €104m a year to maintain.
As reported by The Guardian, many have been critical of the Macrons for redecorating some rooms in the palace – including the main reception room where new carpets will cost €300,000.
Macron sat behind the large antique desk that has been used by all presidents since Charles de Gaulle and is the most valuable piece of furniture in the gilded palace.
The 13-minute address had to prove the pro-business Macron understood the “real world” of protesters. There had been outrage among gilets jaunes when an MP from Macron’s party, La République En Marche, was recently unable to state the minimum wage on TV or when a cabinet minister trying to show the gulf between the working poor and the political elite appeared to complain that Paris dinners cost “€200 without wine”.
According to The Guardian, Macron’s every twitch and movement was scrutinised by viewers. Some wondered if he had a rash on his neck, perhaps from stress. Others felt the way he sat with hands on the table looked a bit like a school teacher returning homework.
But a record 23 million people tuned in – about the same number as for the French football team’s winning World Cup final.