In France they call it le retour des serpents de mer – the time of the year when daft stories, blown up out of all proportion, begin to take up space in the press and broadcast news.

 With the holy month of August almost upon us, when France effectively closes down, it comes as no surprise to learn that Emmanuel Macron “faces the biggest test yet of his presidency” over the fact that the former head of his security detail, masquerading as a police officer, beat up several protestors gathered in Paris to celebrate May Day.

 The presidential heavy in question, Alexandre Benalla, was sacked soon after a video emerged of him laying in to left-wing protestors with a baton, reportedly because he wanted to “lend a hand”. It then turned out that he had “previous” in the crowd control field and was probably not the best man to oversee the safety of the President – unless, of course, the definition of “best” in this context is the man most likely to beat the crap out of anyone attempting to assault the boss.

 Three senior police officers who had apparently given Benalla permission to join in the May Day policing effort, as well as an official of Macron’s En Marche party, have since been questioned to determine their part in the affair, and, pending any court hearing or fresh revelations, it should have ended there, with Benalla and the others facing criminal charges and the Elysée embarrassed by the seeming inadequacy of its vetting procedure.

 Except, oh no! First, the press went to town on the story, dressing it up as if it were a second Dreyfus or Trump in Helsinki. Then Macron made things worse by refusing to comment and distancing himself from the whole squalid business. Finally, the National Assembly – determined to show that it is not an entirely suppine body – got its oar in, setting up a special commission of inquiry that interrogated Interior Minister Gérard Collomb behind closed doors, giving the impression that what we had here was evidence of collusion between the Executive and the police and – gasp! – proof of Macron’s contempt for the people.

 With the rumbling approaching storm-force conditions, the newspaper Le Parisien – known in the rest of the country as Aujord’hui – threw up the less than intriguing possibility that Benalla might actually be Lahcène Benahlia, born in Morocco, having changed his name in order to appear more French. Why this should be important was not made clear.

 The Far-Left were obviously up in arms. But so was the Far-Right. Marine Le Pen, an increasingly forlorn figure, effortlessly outmanoeuvred by her Further-Right niece, Marion Maréchal, jumped in to claim that the buck stopped with Macron and that the President, who beat her hollow in 2017, had to come up with a good explanation for what happened with the minimum of delay.

 Macron will be shaking in his shoes.

 L’Affaire Benalla looks as if it will run and run, at least until the public wearies of it or, more likely, as they disappear to the beaches of Provence, the Vendée and Brittany, where temperatures are at near-record highs and cold beer, rather than hot news, is likely to dominate the agenda.

 I could be wrong, I suppose. Maybe Benalla will bring the President down, or at least force him to sack his interior minister. But don’t bet on it. August, like Ramadan in reverse, is an obligation in France, causing Paris and other major cities to empty overnight and not resume normal life until La Rentrée, which this year falls precisely on September 1. Historians will undoubtedly be joining their fellow citizens this weekend in the gadarene rush. They know a footnote when they see one.