When he was first elected president of France in 2017, Emmanuel Macron immediately became a standard-bearer for radical centrism. He was young, clever and eminently reasonable. Also, it was a time of panic for liberals.
Britain had voted the previous year to leave the European Union. America had just elected Donald Trump. Across Europe populists were climbing in the polls, even in sober places like Sweden, Denmark and Germany.
The far left were in power in Greece. Italy’s Northern League would soon enter government as half of an all-populist coalition that flirted with leaving the euro and rebuffed migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.
All around the rich world politicians who promised to raise walls, ignore experts and turn back the clock to an imaginary golden age were in the ascendant. No wonder Mr Macron’s triumph in one of Europe’s most pivotal countries brought sighs of relief.
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