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Focus on what really matters, Blair advises Macron

© AFP | Former British prime minister Tony Blair advised Emmanuel Macron not to lose sight of why French voters chose him for president, seeking 'something new and different'


France's incoming president Emmanuel Macron got some advice on Friday from former British prime minister Tony Blair, with whom the reform-minded Frenchman has often been compared.

In an opinion piece in Le Monde daily titled "What Emmanuel Macron grasped", Blair praised 39-year-old Macron -- who will be inaugurated on Sunday -- for his landslide victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

"I have long argued that the only way of pushing back effectively against populist discontent and anger, is by providing genuine answers to the challenges globalisation poses," wrote Blair, who was prime minister from 1997 to 2007.

"This politics of the progressive centre is the only way the populism can be defeated," he added.

Blair overhauled the British left during his tenure, moving away from state interventionism in favour of a more pragmatic, pro-business approach that won his Labour Party three general elections.

Macron, who quit the Socialist government in 2016 to form his own movement that mixes economic liberalism with a strong commitment to social spending, has often been likened to Blair who became head of Britain's government at age 43.

Blair, now 64, said that Macron should not lose sight of the fact that "people in France voted for something new and different."

But he also acknowledged that, when it came down to change, "people always support it in general, but unfortunately then frequently disagree with it in particular."

He warned Macron against spending too much political capital on reforms that would not "really move the needle."

"Do the things which really matter was what I learnt," he advised.

The former British leader, whose reputation was severely damaged over his support for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, said the hardest part of governing was implementation and advised Macron to set up teams focused on "the sole purpose of getting the thing done."

"For sure, for the new president, the hard slog now starts," Blair wrote. "But the direction is good, the compass is sound and there are many, the world over, who are on the same journey."

© 2017 AFP