He stepped into the limelight at the start of the quinquennium in his “cost killer” costume, which he hasn’t taken off since. Florian Bachelier, 43 years old, expertly combed and disheveled, with a hurried look and the desire to “move the lines”, talks cash and does not bother with conventions. In June 2017, ten days after winning his first term as deputy for La République en Marche (LRM) in Ille-et-Vilaine, he was elected by his peers as Quaestor of the National Assembly. An important charge, entrusted to three deputies – two from the majority, one from the opposition -, which consists of managing the some 540 million euros in annual expenses of the Assembly, 900 civil servants and 300 contract workers and prestigious salons receipt of the query.
Florian Bachelier wasted no time in making it a forum. In November 2017, his “secret savings plan” on the Palais-Bourbon budget made the front page of the Sunday Journal (JDD): 1 million euros by the end of the year, 10 million in 2018, then 15 million per year for the rest of the term of office… The coup arouses the broca of his fellow quaestors and the President of the National Assembly at the time, François de Rugy, who had not been consulted beforehand.
To JDD journalists, he announced the sale of the Hôtel de Broglie, bought for 63 million euros, in 2016, to house the deputies and thus reduce their hotel costs. Again, none of his colleagues were consulted, the measure was rejected. Mr. de Rugy and the other LRM quaestor, Laurianne Rossi (Hauts-de-Seine), will have a charter adopted which obliges the office to vote on any transaction over 1 million euros. Regardless, the message has passed and it will be repeated many times during the five-year term. “In the National Assembly, the bamboche with public money, it’s over! “, repeated Florian Bachelier, in March, at the microphone of France Bleu Armorique.
At a time when the deputy of the 8th constituency of Ille-et-Vilaine is again seeking the votes of his fellow citizens, praising his record as first quaestor and the “96.2 million euros of public money [saved] in five years”, the opposite observation is necessary. Under this 15th legislature, the National Assembly spent more than during the previous one… and, for Florian Bachelier, the questorship became a way to rise in the first circles of Macronie.
Barely arrived, the deputy is the cantor of the “transformation” of the Assembly with the sauce “start-up nation”. Purchase of touch tablets, installation of Wi-Fi… He multiplies symbolic investments, but also media outlets to claim the fruits of the reforms putting an end to the specificities of parliamentary status, such as the abolition of the special pension scheme for deputies or aligning their unemployment insurance scheme with common law. To the point of forgetting the necessary collegiality of the decisions of the questure and of robbing part of the institution for a long time. Event went almost unnoticed: nearly 300 staff members (out of 1,200) went on strike on February 8 against the reform of the parliamentary civil service put on the table by Mr. Bachelier, after the first confinement. An unprecedented mobilization under the Fifth Republic.
Among the other decisions that split the unity of the College of Quaestors: the 15% increase in the allocation for telephone packages, taxis and mail, proposed by Florian Bachelier in January 2021. Laurianne Rossi opposes it, making argue that most deputies have only used half of their envelope in 2019 and 2020. The increase will however be voted, thanks to the voice of the third quaestor, the deputy Les Républicains (LR) of the Alpes-Maritimes, Eric Ciotti . If the quaestors assume to allocate more resources to the deputies, the elected officials suffer criticism pointing to the expensive nature of the measure. Especially since this increase follows others: 10% for the envelope intended to remunerate employees in 2018, 30% for the reimbursement of the Parisian pied-à-terre of deputies in 2019, 10% for the credit of telephone and computer equipment in 2020.
Far from having allowed savings, the reforms pushed by the “cost killer” weighed on the budget of the Palais-Bourbon. Expenditure, which fluctuated between 520 and 530 million euros during the Hollande five-year term – excluding an election year, traditionally more expensive, due to the renewal of the Assembly – systematically exceeded 540 million euros under this mandate. Ditto for operating expenses which, each year, have exceeded the state allocation, forcing the Assembly to draw on its reserves on a long-term basis.
How to explain the approximately 96 million euros in savings brandished by Mr. Bachelier? The deputy is playing on the difference between the anticipated expenditure and that which is finally made. Since 2018, the provisional budget has been around 568 million euros, compared to 537 million during the previous mandate. “Such an overestimation has been frequent in recent times,” notes Bercy in the 2022 finance bill.
Among the minority of deputies – around forty out of 577 – who have used up all of their endowment allocated to mail, taxis and telephone packages is the first quaestor. Letters to entrepreneurs, poster campaign “My deputy is a bachelor”… He uses his envelope to communicate about his action and about himself. A few days after the interview at the JDD, an eighteen-page press kit, of which eight full pages are occupied by photos of him, is published. Faced with ridicule, the document was quickly withdrawn. The deputy claims not to have validated his exit. At the same time, his parliamentary assistants multiply exchanges with television channels, occupy their day writing his publications on social networks, call back with LRM activists when the number of “Likes” is not enough. They expunge from its Wikipedia page any unpleasant mention.
His requests are quick to use up some of his assistants – Le Monde counted twenty-eight of them over the five-year term, twice as many as for his fellow quaestors. He justifies this turnover by the proliferation of temporary hiring for “reports, writing, research” intended to feed his field work and “the evaluation of public policies”. According to the count of the association Regards citoyen, he is one of the 150 least active deputies of this five-year term. Partial indicators, according to the person concerned, because they do not take into account “the 161 questure reports” and “all the work in the constituency”. In the Hemicycle, his presence is limited to the solemn votes and the session of questions to the government, broadcast on television every Tuesday. His two quaestor colleagues, who have the same task, display a much more prolific activity.
From the beginning of his term, his management is portrayed as being “inappropriate” towards the staff of the questure: “pressures”, “messages at all hours of the day and night”, “wacky requests”, such as the visit of the living room hairstyle of the Assembly in the middle of the night… In five years, three Secretaries General have succeeded each other in the Questure. Others describe an “exhausted” staff, calling for calls to order from the other two quaestors and the president of the National Assembly.
In his wake are also active trainees, several communication specialists, but also his companion, Carole Gandon, who did not wish to respond to our requests. Having become a referent for the LRM movement in Ille-et-Vilaine after the election of Mr. Bachelier, who until then held this position, she will manage his parliamentary assistants on a daily basis for him at the start of his mandate. To a candidate who expresses his discomfort after having had an interview with her, the quaestor will retort that Ms. Gandon officiated as “referent of the movement in Ille-et-Vilaine (…) with whom six other deputies collaborate”. However, she will never be present during the recruitment process carried out by the other elected officials.
On September 11, 2019, Rennes merchants in Florian Bachelier’s constituency received a letter, paid for from his MP funds, in which he castigated the insecurity and “the too many excesses that have tarnished the reputation of [their] city”. Two days earlier, Carole Gandon, nominated LRM candidate to snatch the town hall of Rennes from the socialists, had launched her campaign on the themes of ecological transition, but also of insecurity and the feeling of “abandonment” of traders. Finally defeated in the 2020 municipal elections, Ms. Gandon immediately joined the cabinet of Nadia Hai, who had just been appointed city minister in the first Castex government.
It is from the salons on the fourth floor of the questure, known as “4G”, that Florian Bachelier cultivates his network. The deputy willingly communicates on the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy and that of Eric Dupond-Moretti, from 2017. He remains more discreet about his other visitors accustomed to television sets, such as the two figures of CNews Pascal Praud and Eric Zemmour (in 2020) , or the whimsical collector of objects related to Napoleon I, Pierre-Jean Chalençon. “He is someone who tries, from where he is, to feel the pulse of French society in all its components: the intellectuals, the politicians, the journalists… He is one of the important sensors in Macronie”, says an adviser to the Elysée.
Impromptu visits to the Elysée
In May 2020, he brought together around the same table David Le Bars, secretary general of the Union of National Police Commissioners, and singer Camélia Jordana. The artist had caused controversy after declaring that “men and women (…) are being massacred [by the police] for no other reason than their skin color”. The then interior minister, Christophe Castaner, immediately condemned his remarks – a reaction privately described as “error” by Mr. Bachelier. The return to the Palais-Bourbon of Christophe Castaner will not improve their relations. While the questure lounges are, in principle, accessible on request to all deputies, Mr. Bachelier refuses access to “4G” to the former minister, elected in September 2020 at the head of the LRM group.
Attempt to seduce, then pressure, to finally put the people concerned before the fait accompli… the “Bachelier method”, as it is nicknamed by its political opponents as well as by its allies, splits. On May 18, on the sidelines of a debate organized by France 3, he asked his competitor LR in the legislative elections, Maël Tournade, to withdraw. If he were to lose, “it would create a dysfunction in the questorship,” he told her. He suggests that he run in the neighboring constituency – where his LRM colleague, Laurence Maillart-Méhaignerie, is seeking a new mandate. “He told me that he did not like it, that he would support me and that he would make sure that the presidential majority did the same”, explains the candidate LR to Le Monde.
Maël Tournade does not give in. On the morning of May 20, the deadline for submitting applications, Florian Bachelier called Mr. Tournade’s alternate to discourage her from running, citing an agreement with LR. A version confirmed by messages that Le Monde was able to consult. The first quaestor claims, for his part, to have only “discussed the fact that there was a strong Mélenchon risk in the 8th district”.
At the Elysée, we simply salute his “commitment”. But his main support remains Richard Ferrand, the president of the National Assembly. The two men met in 2016, when they were working to install En Marche! – the former name of LRM – in Brittany. On the evening of his roost election, September 12, 2018, Richard Ferrand will await the results of the ballot in Mr. Bachelier’s office. Since then, the first has relied on the second in this diarchy formed by the presidency of the National Assembly and the questure. Mr. Ferrand will thus send the first quaestor, in September 2021, to the LRM deputy for Ille-et-Vilaine Mustapha Laabid, after the conviction of the latter for embezzlement of public funds, to demand his resignation from the LRM group.
Rather than a man in the shadows or a lookout, Florian Bachelier has long imagined himself as a sovereign minister. In the spring of 2020, as the reshuffle approaches, he multiplies the messages and impromptu visits to the Elysée. It is the president himself who receives him to put an end to his dreams of grandeur.