Since Emmanuel Macron, 46, took office in 2017, terrorist acts, anti-social crimes and union strikes have drastically increased

Hyperactive French president Emmanuel Macron was in Marseille in March, promising to launch an ‘XXL crackdown’ on drug trafficking and to strike fear into the violent gangsters who have turned parts of the Mediterranean city into a war zone.

Police duly rounded up the usual low-level suspects. For the ruthless crime barons, however, it seems to be business as usual.

This week, one of the most notorious, 30-year-old Mohamed Amra, aka La Mouche (The Fly), was freed from a prison van in an audacious ambush at a motorway tollbooth by accomplices armed with assault rifles.

It was yet another example of Macron’s rhetoric colliding with harsh reality and another humiliation for the president who has compared himself to Jupiter, Roman king of the gods.

Two prison officers were slaughtered, one had a pregnant wife, the other was married with two children; several others were wounded. Amra, who has 13 criminal convictions and is the prime suspect in at least one gangland murder, is still on the run.

‘We will track you down and punish you,’ was the threat from Macron’s prime minister Gabriel Attal on Tuesday. Time will tell. Five hundred police have been mobilised. An Interpol red notice has been issued. But of Amra and his accomplices there is no trace.

Since Emmanuel Macron, 46, took office in 2017, terrorist acts, anti-social crimes and union strikes have drastically increased

Since Emmanuel Macron, 46, took office in 2017, terrorist acts, anti-social crimes and union strikes have drastically increased

CNEWS, one of the few French media outlets that doesn’t spend its time apologising for Macron, was scathing. The prison officers might as well have been armed with ‘water pistols,’ snorted presenter Pascal Praud.

‘Here is the brutal reality of the confrontation between the State and crime in France,’ said the criminologist Alain Bauer.

Since Macron took office promising a new dawn for his country, Islamic militants have burned churches, murdered a priest saying mass and beheaded a teacher who offended a Muslim student.

Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 300 per cent. The Holocaust memorial in Paris was attacked this week and yesterday morning, police shot dead a man armed with a knife who set fire to a synagogue in Rouen.

In Montpellier, a 13-year-old Muslim schoolgirl was beaten into a coma by three classmates — for wearing unIslamic dress.

In 69 days, Paris will welcome the world to the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympics, a spectacular opportunity for Macron to preen himself on a global stage.

But security officials are terrified that the games will also provide a platform for terrorists and criminals.

The Foreign Office is warning British visitors to France of possible ‘indiscriminate’ attacks at shopping centres, entertainment venues, cultural events, public transport and places of worship.

Brits can see for themselves the abject failure of Macron to impose order. People-smuggling gangs run their cross-channel ferry service with apparent impunity.

It’s also obvious in virtually every big city in France, where poorly paid, badly trained police have been overwhelmed. Many cities have introduced night-time curfews to counter an epidemic of juvenile crime.

Farmers earlier this year took to the streets, burning tyres and blocking roads with their tractors, to protest against sanctions imposed by the government

Farmers earlier this year took to the streets, burning tyres and blocking roads with their tractors, to protest against sanctions imposed by the government

Macron couldn’t appear weaker and his presidency seems doomed — unless he can reverse his party’s deepening slump in the European Parliament elections next month.

There are few signs that he can do so. Support for the National Rally, formerly called the National Front and considered by some the acceptable face of the far-right, continues to rise.

The party has detoxified itself in recent years and now has an attractive young president at the top of its list for the EU elections in Jordan Bardella, not yet 30. Born in modest circumstances, he has been an acolyte of parliamentary party leader Marine Le Pen since the age of 16.

Latest polls show Macron’s Renaissance party trailing a distant second to National Rally; a victory for Bardella is predicted.

In Paris recently, the director of one of the country’s leading pollsters told me that on current form Le Pen is virtually certain to replace Macron in the next presidential election in 2027.

It all feels a long way from the promising rhetoric Macron spouted when he was first voted into office in 2017, aged just 39.

After years of French economic stagnation, at the head of a new political party, then called En Marche! (Forward), he represented a rupture with the past.

He promised to drag France into the 21st century. He was even portrayed on the cover of the once-authoritative Economist magazine walking on water.

But all degenerated quickly. In the first months of his presidency he clumsily reduced taxes for the wealthy and increased those on the fuel vital to French workers, sparking months of violent protests that ended only with the Covid lockdowns.

The emergency services have even rallied against Mr Macron - calling for increases to their bonuses which reward their courage and dedication

The emergency services have even rallied against Mr Macron – calling for increases to their bonuses which reward their courage and dedication

He was re-elected to a second five-year term in 2022 by a hugely reduced margin then weeks later lost control of the National Assembly in legislative elections.

Since then, it’s got worse. Forty-nine people were murdered in drug-related shoot-outs in Marseille alone last year. Five people have been killed this week in a near civil war in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia off the coast of Australia.

A teacher at a lycee in Beziers in southern France tells me when she asked her principal what she should do to discipline unruly students, she was told to do nothing, or risk being assaulted.

Prison officers say they are in an impossible position as not enough new jails are being built and the existing ones are overcrowded.

The national police seem hopelessly outnumbered. Even the renowned French health system is stressed, with 8 per cent of people living in medical ‘deserts’ — often rural areas without sufficient doctors.

Meanwhile, with Macron in trouble, his wife (and former high-school drama teacher) Brigitte, 24 years his senior, is reportedly so exasperated that she is attempting to purge his senior advisers. Paris insiders call this the revenge of the ‘Madame wing’ of the Elysee Palace.

She’s thought to have been behind the president’s latest pathetic stunt, being photographed by the Elysee’s official photographer channelling Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, pummelling a punch bag. The message was supposed to be that the president is tough. But boxing fans said his jab was feeble.

Paris insiders are whispering that Mr Macron's wife Brigitte, 71, is attempting to purge his senior advisers

Paris insiders are whispering that Mr Macron’s wife Brigitte, 71, is attempting to purge his senior advisers

Macron’s flailing was a striking analogy for a presidency that’s become all show and not much ‘go’. Many of his heralded economic reforms have been abandoned. He pledged, when elected, to cut France’s bloated bureaucracy but the number of civil servants has relentlessly increased.

His one significant reform was a modest rise in the retirement age and, after failing to win parliamentary approval, that was passed only through the mechanism of a presidential decree.

So what is Macron good at? Making announcements, for starters. He recently declared that he would restore cohesion in schools by forcing students to wear uniforms, long ago abandoned in France. Other than providing him with a few headlines to appeal to angry voters, the idea seems hopeless.

This month the childless president also promised to boost France’s declining birth rate by promising new subsidies for parents.

He bangs on about his love of the EU, but few voters seem impressed with his ambition for ever-deeper political, military and economic union.

Macron talks of sending EU troops to Ukraine, but nobody believes him, and his generals warn that they lack ammunition.

In the meantime the traditional alliance with Germany has practically collapsed. He’s barely on speaking terms with German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

And his hard-line refusal to offer meaningful concessions to Britain before the Brexit referendum has turned into a special embarrassment.

Even the leader of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union Friedrich Merz, currently odds-on to be the next German chancellor, replacing the unpopular Scholz, blames the intransigence of Macron and former chancellor Angela Merkel for Britain’s exit.

Economics was supposed to be Macron’s strong point but his policies are another colossal failure. ING economist Charlotte de Montpellier believes that the French government’s aim of a 4.4 per cent GDP deficit in 2024 is hopelessly unachievable. French government debt was almost 111 per cent of GDP last year.

Macron’s defenders say the crisis in France is exaggerated, pointing to falling unemployment and record foreign investment by the likes of Google and Amazon (France has no global tech giants of its own, despite Macron’s boasting it is a ‘start-up’ nation.)

But the fact is that apologists

for the president haven’t persuaded voters who are struggling with a cost-of-living crisis, failing schools, overwhelmed police and the second-highest taxes in Europe after Denmark. The head of a small architectural practice told me this week it was all very well Macron being photographed with Elon Musk, ‘but he’s doing nothing for us’.

As for the Olympics, Macron, Panglossian as ever, has brushed aside security concerns and after a recent warning that the Seine is too contaminated with sewage to hold the open-water swimming events, has promised to dive in himself, to prove the water is safe. A promise as yet unfulfilled.

Perhaps the Olympics will be a triumph, although it will be hard for Paris to match London 2012. Perhaps escaped prisoner Mohamed Amra will be captured. Perhaps Brigitte Macron can talk some sense into her husband — after all, he was her former pupil.

But for the moment, Macron has only united the country against him. Almost half-way through his second term, his dreams of a French renaissance have crumbled. His ambition to rebuild the EU has run aground. His cities and towns are out of control.

The French are shocked, angry, and in the European Parliament elections in June they will take political revenge on their hapless president.

Jonathan Miller is author of France, A Nation On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.

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