Edouard Philippe is afraid that he will be taken for an “old schnock”. That said, “I am as I am,” admits the former prime minister, as Prévert would be quoted. The mayor of Le Havre (Seine-Maritime), 51, is one of those men who like order, speak with emotion of their military service and arrive on time for their appointment. This May 7, the city councilor therefore had to compose so as not to keep friends from Le Havre waiting. Their wedding is scheduled for 11 a.m. and he is to officiate. At the same time, the investiture of Emmanuel Macron is held in Paris.

To scroll ? Impossible. Edouard Phillipe does not let go of his “buddies”. Missing the ceremony dedicating the start of the second five-year term of the Head of State is just as unimaginable. His absence would only fuel the rumor of stormy liaisons maintained between the two men since the departure from Matignon of the former member of the Republicans (LR). So Edouard Philippe composes, arranges. The wedding is delayed by a few hours. The man “loyal” to the Head of State, as he hammers it to better convince himself, is at the Elysée at the appointed time.

In the village hall, in the middle of the crowd, his head, hoisted over his meter ninety, exceeds that of relatives, courtiers and ambitious people. Emmanuel Macron warmly greets Nicolas Sarkozy, cordially evacuates François Hollande, then approaches Edouard Philippe. Looks, virile handshakes, smiles. And suddenly, the hand of the head of state flies away and pats the cheek of the mayor of Le Havre. Embarrassed. Emmanuel Macron reiterates, this time placing his hand on the neck of the former prime minister, as one would caress the neck of a horse. Embarrassment. Edouard Philippe looks down.

The popularity of the mayor of Le Havre annoys the head of state

The head of state, who has just been re-elected with 58% of the vote against his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen, repeats the unprecedented nature of his situation. For the first time since 1965, a president was re-elected outside the period of cohabitation. Emmanuel Macron lets it be said that he owes nothing of this victory to Edouard Philippe and floats in the atmosphere the little acid phrases of his entourage towards the former LR. The popularity of the mayor of Le Havre annoys the head of state, unloved by the French. With the approach of the legislative elections, the lack of consideration of “Macronie” towards the former head of government resulted in the 58 nominations granted to the candidates of his party, Horizons, out of the 556 of the presidential camp. Crumbs.

Revenge will come. This Wednesday, June 22, Edouard Philippe receives us in the premises of his party, avenue d’Iéna, in Paris, iPhone connected to a playlist broadcasting Guns N’Roses and Michael Jackson. In his offices, which were once the headquarters of Jacques Chirac, the party leader savors the inversion of the balance, but does not let it show. To gloat would be vulgar. At the end of the legislative elections, the 50-year-old had 29 Horizons deputies elected, enough to form a group, obtain funding and think about 2027 by ostensibly drinking Corona and showing a secret passion for apples. A way to show that he is gradually taking on the costume of the conquering Chirac.

“You have to take voters seriously”

In the same period, Emmanuel Macron, he is going through a bad patch. The Head of State only has a relative majority. The ally sympathizes. But recalls that there are two “sources of legitimacy in national politics: the election of the President of the Republic and that of national representation”.

Implied: Emmanuel Macron would have let himself be drunk on April 24, forgetting the second part of the equation. “You have to take voters seriously, even when they tell you complicated things that you would have liked to see formulated differently”, he underlines, recalling, not without mischief, having seen the blow coming by quoting his own book, Impressions and clear lines (Lattès, 2021), co-written with his accomplice, Gilles Boyer: “How can we exclude that one day an elected president, or more probably re-elected with moderate enthusiasm, finds himself in the situation of having to deal with other political formations than his own to form his majority? From coalition to cohabitation, there are only a few letters. »

Here we are. This same June 22, Edouard Philippe was received by the Head of State, like the other leaders of major political forces, to share his analysis of the situation. Proof that his party, Horizons, will be a key player in this new five-year term and, perhaps, a launching pad for the Elysée for 2027. “There is so much excess in the people who said that I was of no use except in those who now say that I am a master piece, ”he declares.

More than ever free, but resolutely loyal

Edouard Philippe is more free than ever, but still resolutely loyal. His attacks on Emmanuel Macron are subtle, nuanced. The National Council for Refoundation, which was to be the illustration of the change of method promised by a “Jupiterian” head of state? “I don’t know exactly what the project covers,” he evacuates. The president’s speech on the tarmac at Orly airport, shortly before the second round of legislative elections, which his opponents deemed a failure? “I didn’t see her,” he said during a campaign trip. As for the impression of hesitation and the doubt that seems to invade the tenant of the Elysée? “Emmanuel Macron is right to take his time. (…) Once he has carried out the consultations [with the different parties], he will have to draw the consequences,” he eludes.

Edouard Philippe holds back his blows, as when he practices boxing, his “hobby” since 2014 and the death of his father. “He knows how to keep the opponent at a distance, when you’re big, it’s essential,” confirms his coach Madjid Nassah, who has become deputy mayor of Le Havre. This restraint commands the admiration of his best political opponent: Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who made him the representative of an “elegant right”. The leader of La France insoumise (LFI), as revolutionary as Edouard Philippe is conservative, remembers, with unfeigned emotion, one of their battles in the Assembly, during Emmanuel Macron’s first five-year term: “J launched the attack. I awaited his response, ready to launch into a tirade quoting Robespierre. Edouard Philippe takes a breather, I’m waiting for him. Then nothing. He holds his punches. I’m mute”, says, amused, the “rebellious”.

In return, Edouard Philippe does not fail to underline the “oratorical and strategic talent” of the former socialist. And stands out from the troops of the president, who have placed the leader of LFI outside the republican framework in the same way as the far right. “Sometimes he gets carried away by his passion and crosses the line that deep down inside he wouldn’t accept,” he concedes. However, “I remember that whenever our country was attacked, such as during the attacks, his reaction was impeccable. I can not forget it. I say it. I assume. I know that,” he blurts out.

“Among his supporters, I would be wary of this denial of hindrance”

This phlegm, which mingles with the almost permanent exercise of a sardonic irony, would have had the gift of exasperating the President of the Republic. “They don’t have the same humor. Both cite Audiard, but they do not have the same way of laughing at it. Edouard uses it to distance himself from a popular France, Emmanuel Macron, because he loves this popular France, ”underlines an adviser to the Head of State.

This attitude, which some associate with casualness, would be a sign of Edouard Philippe’s lack of “niaque”, his critics mock. In the entourage of Emmanuel Macron, few bet, in fact, on the presidential destiny of the former close friend of Alain Juppé, judging that if the desire really tormented him he would have taken the plunge from 2022. does not have this will, this flame ”, wants to believe a close friend of the president.

Within his former LR family, many also doubt the future of the former young Rocardian. Jean-François Copé, in particular. In the documentary of the program “Complément d’Enquête” dedicated to Edouard Philippe, broadcast on May 19 on France 2, the mayor of Meaux (Seine-et-Marne) tells how the former Prime Minister had requested him, in December 2020, to study a presidential candidacy under the colors of LR. “We talked for a long time. It made a lot of sense. He was very nice, ”confirms the former president of the UMP. Their exchanges repeated themselves, before being followed by a long silence. ” I never knew. No phone call. Nothing. That’s the Juppeists, that doesn’t remind you, “breaths Jean-François Copé, adding: “Among his supporters, I would be wary of this refusal to obstruct. »

“He puts distance between himself and politics”

Edouard Philippe does not mention this episode, but “regrets nothing”. Going into 2022 “wouldn’t have made sense.” “It meant registering in opposition to a record that is, in part, mine, it would have been divisive. It is not me. But I also don’t regret for a second creating Horizons,” he says. As for the critics: “It touches me one without stirring the other,” he jokes in a new Chiraquian reference.

His godfather Jean-Pierre Raffarin is reassured: “He has the stuff. However, the former Prime Minister admits: “Edouard Philippe is still under construction. He puts distance between himself and politics,” pointing out that when the time comes, the latter will have to step up a gear…unless he rears up once more.

Being president is “terribly difficult”, admits the person concerned. Considering it, “it is being prepared, it is being thought about, it is being reflected on”. “It’s good, cravings, but seriousness and humility are good too,” he said. As for making the French dream, he gave it up. “I may have a white beard, but I’m not Santa Claus. It is not a question of making the French dream at all costs, it is a question of talking to them about France. You have to have a clear idea of ​​what you want for the country and share it. He has five years left to refine this idea and thus give birth to “philippism”.