OPINION: Macron's vow to 'piss off' unvaxxed was deliberate and won't hurt his election chances

John Lichfield
John Lichfield - [email protected]
OPINION: Macron's vow to 'piss off' unvaxxed was deliberate and won't hurt his election chances
(FILES) This file photo taken on December 9, 2021 shows French President Emmanuel Macron delivering a speech during a press conference on France assuming EU presidency, in Paris. - President Emmanuel Macron on January 5, 2022 warned people in France not yet vaccinated against Covid-19 that he would cause them trouble by limiting access to key aspects of life in the country. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

French president Emmanuel Macron has been making headlines around the world with his strong language about those who refuse the Covid vaccine - but will this really damage his chances of being re-elected, asks John Lichfield?


President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that he wanted to emmerder (piss off) the non-vaccinated.

Cue an explosion of fake anger amongst his opponents at his use of such disrespectful and unpresidential language. Has the President  “P**d off” more people than he intended?

I doubt it. Over 92 percent of eligible French are now first vaccinated and 90.5 percent double-jabbed.

The remaining 10 percent are an eclectic bunch of anti-vax obsessives or crazies, stubborn libertarians and a large group of over-80s who rarely leave home and (foolishly) don’t see any point in getting jabbed. Few of them, I suspect, are potential Macron voters.


Macron’s words were risky all the same. They were clearly not a spur-of-the-moment stumble. His reply to a nurse during a question and answer session with readers of Le Parisien was chatty and vulgar in style but lengthy and considered in content.

The nurse, who works in a clinic for the elderly, said that 85 percent of people occupying the acute care beds in her workplace were non-vaccinated. And yet, she said, urgent operations for vaccinated cancer patients were being postponed for lack of beds.

In reply Macron said the “worst enemies of democracy” were “lies and stupidity”. How could the government reduce the small minority of the non-vaccinated?

“By - and I’m sorry for putting it this way -  by them off even more,” Macron said. “I’m generally opposed to the French being p…d off. I complain all the time about administrative blockages. But when it comes to the non-vaccinated, I’m very keen to p… them off. So we’re going to do it, the end. That’s our strategy.”

New rules going through parliament - held up twice by opposition deputies, even though many of them support them - will turn the existing “health pass” into a “vaccine pass”. Only the vaccinated, and progressively only the booster-vaccinated, will have access to fun or travel.

READ ALSO What changes if France's health pass becomes a vaccine pass?

From January 15th, Macron told the nurse, the non-vaxxed would “no longer be able to go to restos or have a quick drink or coffee or go to the theatre or cinema…”

I don’t believe that Macron’s use of such direct, vulgar language was a spur-of-the-moment mistake.

It was a deliberate nod to the many millions of vaccinated French people who are already “p…d off” with the lies and obfuscations and of the unvaxxed - and by the violent language and actions of a small minority of this minority.

It was also intended as a trap for opposition politicians and  rival presidential candidates - a trap that many of them enthusiastically charged into. Macron, they protested, was “Trumpising” the language of French politics. He was acting like a “little dictator”.Maybe but above all he was “acting” - doing something.


Macron’s supporters had already accused his opponents of playing politics with a health crisis because they crassly used a parliamentary manoeuvre to cut short all-night debate on the new vaccine pass on Monday evening.

Now the Macronistes accuse the opposition - including the supposedly pro-vaccine pass centre-right candidate Valérie Pécressse - of using fake and sterile indignation  to court the votes of a minority of anti-vaxxers.

Yes, Macron’s language was a little crude, the Macronistes say. But it reflects an anger that many people share. If he speaks formally, he is accused of being out-of-touch. If he speaks colloquially, he is accused of being vulgar. He at least is doing something. The opposition is reduced to playing politics.

Factually, Macron has a point. According to the official figures, non-vaccinated people are 17 times more likely to end up in acute care  than the vaccinated.

In the week from December 13th to 19th, 1.5 per million completely vaccinated people were in acute care with Covid (all of them still Delta cases). The figure for the non-vaxxed was 26 in a million.

Could the government do more to get people vaccinated without coercing or insulting them? For most age groups, no. There is, however, a glaring weakness in Macron’s argument: the relatively poor rate of vaccination of the over 80s in France

Octogenarians and above are the age group most vulnerable to Covid, but in France they are the adult age group which is the least vaccinated. Only just over 90 percent have been double-vaxxed, compared to 98 percent of septuagenarians. They are of course also the age-group least affected by curbs on “fun” and travel. The government should be doing more to reach out to them.

But that is not the political risk that Macron was taking yesterday. The real risk was one that I have complained about before: Macron’s evident determination to campaign for re-election from within the walls of the Elysée Palace.

OPINION Macron won't admit it, but he's on the election trail

His language yesterday was not presidential. It was the language of someone who was electioneering rather than governing. He is not the first President to seek advantage by muddling the two roles. He is the first to do so when the country faces such an acute crisis.

Macon said in the Q&A yesterday that he was eager to run again but would wait until the health situation was clearer before he formally declared.

I think that Candidate Macron is already influencing the judgement of President Macron on the government’s largely wait-and-see response to the new Omicron wave of Covid.

He may get away with it. He may even benefit. But he could pay a big electoral price if the acute care and death figures spiral out of control in the next month.



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Anonymous 2022/01/11 02:59
Insulting the electorate never ends well as displayed by this weeks protestors retorting ‘we are going to p*** you off’. These kinds of childish vindictive and frankly menacing remarks about how ppl who disagree are not citizens any more finish political careers.
Anonymous 2022/01/08 10:13
As from last Sunday, the Ministry of Health gave written instruction that Covid infected healthcare staff can carry on working in French hospitals. The obsession with vaccines has now resulted in the crazy situation where unvaccinated, uninfected healthcare workers are suspended whilst vaccinated, infected workers can carry on. The rest of the world is aghast at this really odd policy. But not apparently the French.
Anonymous 2022/01/08 01:07
What is missing from this analysis is a fundamental understanding of the French culture. The French people are passionate about the right to choose for yourself. Many, many of the protestors against mandatory vaccination had been themselves vaccinated and were protesting against the government taking away the right to choose. Macron is going to lose the votes of more than the “eclectic bunch of anti-vax obsessives or crazies, stubborn libertarians and a large group of over-80s who rarely leave home and (foolishly) don’t see any point in getting jabbed” as a result of this. By the way, attacking the straw man is unbecoming in journalism. Lift your game, Mr Lichfield.
Anonymous 2022/01/06 21:55
To change the subject slightly. I've seen a piece on aspirating while injecting. This is really interesting and makes a lot of sense. For those who have made an informed decision to vaccine (whose decision I respect), maybe ask for the syringe to be aspirated before injection. A study in North Korea has shown a link between Myocarditis in mice vaccinated intravenously as opposed to those injected intramuscularly. Aspiration, for those who don't know, is when you pull back on the plunger to check for blood. If all clear, the vaccine is then administered. It's been a standard practise among nurses for many years. It doesn't cost anything and takes no time. When the mRNA is delivered into the muscle it teaches the cells to recognise the offending spike protein and to protect against it. If the solution is accidently delivered into the blood stream, that's when the risks of vaccine injury seem to occur, as it circulates the entire body to places it's not intended to go. For more info, check out: Interesting stuff and makes sense.
Anonymous 2022/01/06 21:40
Quote: 'The remaining 10 percent are an eclectic bunch of anti-vax obsessives or crazies, stubborn libertarians and a large group of over-80s who rarely leave home and (foolishly) don’t see any point in getting jabbed. Few of them, I suspect, are potential Macron voters.' Really, John Litchfield? Seems to me your intolerance and indifference clouds your objectivism. I'm neither an anti-vax obsessive, nor any from that list you pen. I'm an individual who prefers to think critically and make informed decisions. Israeli studies have clearly shown that natural immunity creates a markedly longer and more robust protection from reinfection than from the vaccine. Where is this study in the media? It's not, because it's not part of the politically crafted narrative. I live with a French family who are double vaccinated and contracted Covid from others who were double vaccinated. I'm not vaccinated. I didn't give it to them. But they could have given it to me. Funny how this flies in the face of the hateful and divisive rhetoric spewed from on high (something, John, that you probably enjoy). So maybe we should start blaming the double vaccinated from endangering those who aren't? Just saying. It's extremely difficult to separate the politics from the science. But if we could, we would see a very different story, but one that doesn't yield much dividends for big pharma. Follow the money. Almost ninety percent of the French population are double vaccinated. They are the ones frequenting the bars, restaurants, cafes, public gatherings, etc. Yet Covid cases are soaring. And it's because of the unvaccinated? Really. I'm shit at Math, but I can figure that one out. It's easier to fool people than to convince them they've been fooled.
  • Anonymous 2022/01/07 03:27
    Actually, the studies done by Israel are always reported in mainstream media and are critically evaluated. They are important information, since Israel has always been ahead of all other countries regarding infections and vaccinations. So your observation that they are not being reported is false. Do you think maybe you have preconceptions that lead you to believe this? Secondly, the study you mention is relevant only to Delta variant, and it shows that natural immunity+1 jab is the most effective at "preventing" contagion. This information has been around for a long time now. However, there are other smaller studies that show two jabs are more effective at mitigating symptoms. All these information must be understood together, and with a grain of salt. There are a lot of things that we still don't understand, and the situation is constantly evolving, making it hard to compare and contrast. Third, the surge in case number must always be understood in context. Omicron is a very different virus from the original back in January 2020, and is considerably different from Delta as well. This does not mean the vaccine is not working, or that it exempts the non-vaccinated. We know that non-vaccinated people are more likely to catch and spread the virus, regardless of which variant. If there are a lot of spreading amongst the vaccinated, that means there is even more amongst the unvaccinated. Finally, the number rising in itself is not of the most concern. It is the result from it, which would be direct deaths, long-covid, over-extended hospitals and the secondary effects from that, as well as shortages of workers, economic and psychological impact, etc. The case for vaccination is that so far, this is the only thing that we have that can counter all of those negative effects. We know this, and you know this. It is not 100%, but it gives us the best chance to fight it, and when some people do not participate in it, it of course makes it less effective, hence prolonging the dire circumstance, and creating further needless deaths and other negative effects mentioned above. The double vaccinated should definitely continue to follow guidelines and restrictions, and making sure they don't catch/pass it on to others, including to non-vaccinated. However, your reasoning that the "blaming" goes both ways is faulty. The vaccinated are taking all precautions and negative effects incurred onto those who choose not to take all precautions, is not the same as the negative effects of those who are deliberately ignoring scientific evidence to protect society at large, who do end up passing it on to the vaccinated/other non-vaccinated. That being said, I agree that blaming people without understanding where they come from is unconstructive. If the unvaccinated understand the risks they're taking, and are trying to behave as responsibly as possible, that should be respected. The frustration is rather directed towards those who deny the efficacy of vaccines and cast doubt on the severity of Covid in order to justify them behaving like everything is normal, and not taking precautions. These people tend to be the ones who are amongst the unvaccinated, hence the author's comment in this article. I'm sure you can understand the frustration.
Anonymous 2022/01/06 18:16
"Maybe but above all he was “acting” – doing something"... errr, no, precisely. He was just blah blah blah campaining. "Acting", that would have meant, like his counterparts in Austria, Italy, Greece, to make vaccination compulsory across the board or above a certain age. But, oh no, that would have meant rubbing French retirees the wrong way. And retirees are a precious electoral bounty in France: they vote in droves, and 50/50 between Macron and Pécresse. Without their vote, Macron is toast: since they don't abstain, those he would lose would turn to Pécresse, Macron's only obstacle towards re-election. So, "emmerder" is cheap, "acting" is riskier. Hence lots of talk talk talk, no action. .
Anonymous 2022/01/06 10:36
If Macron wants to scapegoat the unvaccinated for the current levels of infection he should look a little closer to home. Millions of vaccinated French were effectively and unknowingly unvaccinated because the booster campaign was delayed and then only offered after first 5 months from the 2nd vax, then 4 months and now 3 months. Some other countries boosted much earlier and the booster was immediately offered to everyone 3 months after their last vax.
Anonymous 2022/01/06 09:33
I meant 'Anglophone'.
Anonymous 2022/01/06 09:31
I appreciate The Local and find its articles on living in France very useful. I'm happy to pay my subscription. But I very much dislike their forays into political commentary. It sometimes feels like the Anglophile branch of the Macron Appreciation Society. John Lichfield's way of writing in particular comes across as patronising. He seems to think the readers of The Local are all slightly stupid, as if we don't read anything about politics other than on this website, and that he can therefore hand us his own biased opinions as if they are fact... "The remaining 10 percent are an eclectic bunch of anti-vax obsessives or crazies" - seriously? Is that as good as the analysis of this situation gets? What about all the health workers, carers and others who have lost their jobs because they have looked at the risk-benefit analysis of the vaccine (as everyone should be doing) and decided that the risks outweigh the benefits... are they all just obsessives and crazies? He must be crazy himself if he seriously thinks so. Moreover, I feel he has - deliberately(?)- missed the elephant in the room. The really shocking thing that Macron said was not the 'e' word, but the fact that he doubts the unvaxxed can be called citizens of France - "When my freedoms threaten those of others, I become someone irresponsible. Someone irresponsible is not a citizen.” What does this imply? An analysis of this comment would be far more interesting... but then that would be a bit awkward wouldn't it...
Anonymous 2022/01/06 09:15
To The Local : Please don't invite comments and then randomly delete posts without explanation. It makes the subsequent posts meaningless. The order of posting also appears to be randomly re-shuffled for no apparent reason.
Anonymous 2022/01/06 08:09
For heaven's sake, he was expressing an opinion, which he is entitled to do. Just get vaccinated, it's no big deal, or just get an exemption certificate. Why make such a big deal of it. So there's a very small percentage that have an adverse reaction to the vaccine, that's normal where mass vaccination is concerned and just life.
  • Anonymous 2022/01/06 17:21
    Exactly, and its THEIR life, not yours, so you have no right whatsoever to try and dictate otherwise.
  • Anonymous 2022/01/06 13:19
    Apparently getting an exemption in France is dependent on taking the first dose! For the immunocompromised like myself who are already not well this amounts to a game of medical Russian roulette. Telling ppl you will ‘cover them in excrement’ because they make their own choices about their own bodies speaks for itself. A product which clearly doesn’t work - and is now on the 4th try is also not convincing for those who are still deciding.
peter_303884 2022/01/06 04:46
My 74 year old wife ended up in the hospital for four days after her second shot of Pfizer. According to the doctor who treated her she got very close to permanent damage to her digestive system. Why should she be forced to take the booster shot? The doctor and a number of colleagues have seen a number of similar cases. It's a fact that the new vaccines where developed in a rush. Why should my wife be forced to take the booster shot? Older people normally don't go to nightclubs or other events packed with people. Why doesn't the government consider that there are people that don't tolerate the vaccine?
  • Anonymous 2022/01/06 08:13
    Just get an exemption certificate from your doctor. My cleaner has one, it's no big deal. What's so hard to understand. You may not go to large events but may come into contact with people who have or do.
Anonymous 2022/01/05 23:29
Really don't understand why the local keeps wheeling out Lichfield with monotonous regularity to peddle his usual mix of complete tosh and lazy journalism. For your information Mr Lichfield there are many thousands out here in the real world, from which you are obviously so far removed, who cannot be vaccinated for absolutely genuine medical reasons. My wife suffers from a conditions which necessitates her taking immuno-suppressant drugs. Her specialists, therefore have no idea what the effect of being vaccinated with drugs which have not been fully tested and only have Emergency Use Clearance, might be on her artificially suppressed immune system. I for one object to her and many other in similar situations being casually branded as "anti-vax obsessives, crazies or stubborn libertarians. She is only 55 years of age by the way. Please Local find a new opinion writer, the current one is well past his use by date!
Anonymous 2022/01/05 20:18
"Lichfield supports status quo" - shocking and surprising.
Anonymous 2022/01/05 17:12
Off he goes again! Lichfield and his generalisations. Crazies? Anti-vax obsessives? Stubborn libertarians? Give your head a wobble man and try writing something original.
Anonymous 2022/01/05 14:07
Well, categorising every one of 5 million people as crazies, obsessives or foolish old people is an 'Opinion' for sure. Hardly qualifies as journalism however. Whatever 'balance' you might have attempted after that para was completely lost. Must be a great skill to wholly understand 5 million people so easily. Vaccinated, but very much dislike these aggressive unqualified attacks on fellow citizens.
  • Anonymous 2022/01/05 16:16
    Well said! I wonder how many out of those unvaccinated have now cancelled their €4.99 per month subscription to the local!!
Anonymous 2022/01/05 13:20
Slightly confused. If , as John says, 26 in a million of the unvaccinated are receiving acute care in hospital, that equates , based on 5 million unvaccinated ,to 130 patients. So, either the figures are wrong or the unvaccinated are being scapegoated as they're clearly not overloading the system.
  • Anonymous 2022/01/05 18:12
    He (quite obviously) means 26 in a million of the population, meaning about 1750 unvaxxed in hospital.

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