Government reshuffle and political communication.
Following the Socialist Party heavy defeat in municipal elections, François Hollande appointed Manuel Valls as his new Prime Minister, in place of Jean-Marc Ayrault. His objective : to bring about change to respond to the disavowal expressed by French voters.
Though, the composition of the new government is not blatant change. Admittedly, the team is smaller than the previous one. But, it still counts 31 people in it, a number just below the average of the Fifth Republic governments i.e. 34. Furthermore, Ségolène Royal and François Rebsamen are the only two new ministers with full powers that have been nominated. The other fourteen were already in position within Jean-Marc Ayrault government.
Change is not obvious as well in the substance of measures announced in the general policy statement a week later. Despite the highly-publicised announcement to reforming the territories thick-pile… in 2017 and 2021, Manuel Valls follows on from previous policies, based on boosting competitiveness and austerity measures.
In that case, which levers François Hollande and its new Prime Minister could still activate to revive a drifting mandate ? Communication, and more specifically communication of a position.
Thus, to differentiate from the previous government criticised for being powerless and even apathetic, Manuel Valls keep hammering that he wants a « combat » government. Above all, in response to the numerous blunders that the previous government commited, Manuel Valls vigorously promotes more collaborative and political working relationships, leading to an « open-minded and confident debate ».
This turnaround was particularly visible in the “stage drama” organised by some ministers : Arnaud Montebourg and the new appointed digital economy Secretary of state, Axelle Lemaire, criticising Jean-Marc Ayraults’ methods on their way to the Council of Ministers, as if they were in a television studio.
Likewise, on the 16th of April, during the press conference that usually follows the Council of Ministers, Manuel Valls decided to announce himself the austerity measures guidelines to reach €50 billion savings on public spending by 2017. He did that without having previously consulted or even just informed left-wing parliamentarians, and was by the way strongly blamed for that. But this is all about marking a break with his predecessor…
That is change: with this « combat » government, as it is called by some journalists, François Hollande’s « normal presidency » replaces communication at the very heart of the political action, erasing every differences with the previous government.