The conflict over pension reform between President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government and France’s trade union movement, the latter backed by anarchists, populists and the far left, has reached the stage where the middle ground is all but deserted.

Half the population, including increasing numbers of frustrated commuters, are fed up with the headline transport strike that over the last five weeks has repeatedly brought the country to a near standstill. The other half is urging the strikers on in the hope that Macron will abandon his reforms, leaving them with the promise of fat pensions secured by borrowing and the prospect of early retirement.