There’s a strange headline for you. When I first saw the topic popping up at The Telegraph I immediately wondered if their marriage was on the rocks. As it turns out it’s nothing of the kind. French President Emmanuel Macron had been proposing to make his wife a paid government employee with specific responsibilities as First Lady. The response from the public was immediate and, shall we say… not encouraging.
Brigitte Macron, the wife of French president Emmanuel Macron, will not officially be France’s First Lady, according to government officials and reports.
The decision flies in the face of Mr Macron’s pre-election promise to make an official position for his wife, a move that turned heads particularly as the government is soon to pass a law preventing MPs from hiring family members as assistants, as part of his own anti-corruption drive.
But after 280,000 people signed a petition over the last two weeks in an attempt to block Mrs Macron from having a salary, it appears the government is back-pedalling.
French government spokesman Christophe Castaner took to Twitter on Monday night to stress that Mrs Macron would not have an official role.
So in the past the French have been in the habit of referring to the wives of their presidents as First Lady just as we do. But it was always an honorary title with no formal definition. President Macron had been angling for either legislation or a change to the constitution which would formalize the “office” of First Lady, complete with official duties and a salary. Needless to say, people weren’t wild about the idea.
Here in the United States, of course, the First Lady does not receive a salary of any kind. (Though it’s been suggested recently that she should.) She does have a staff of up to two dozen people, however, and they do get paid. There’s also an account for expenses run up by the East Wing office for some reason. But whether you’re talking about France or the United States, the obvious objections of the public are completely justified. Why should they be earning a taxpayer funded salary and how on Earth could you assign them any actual duties? Nobody voted for the First Lady (or the First Dude when we eventually get a female president). They have no function in the executive, legislative or judicial authority of the federal government. And far more importantly, assuming you did assign them some executive branch responsibilities, what recourse would the voters have to remove her if they didn’t care for the “job” she was doing?
That’s the entire point here. It’s not a job. It’s a polite title to show that you married the person who wound up holding elected office. President Macron should have known better than this going into the race. If he wants Brigitte Macron to have some official duties he should encourage her to run for some office of her own or take the chance of appointing her to an existing position. But if he does the latter, he should probably be prepared for significant backlash.