Well, En Marche is a new party and Emmanuel Macron had only been installed in the Elysée Palace for 24 hours. So when the new President of France was looking for a prime minister to head what may well be an interim administration, he couldn’t exactly look down the serried ranks of his senior colleagues and come up with the obvious choice. 

Instead, assessing the realities of national politics in advance of next month’s parliamentary elections, he went for someone from the conservative opposition benches with a proven record as an administrator and, so they say, an open mind, unconstrained by ideology.

Thus, Edouard Philippe, a moderate conservative deputy in the outgoing National Assembly, who has been mayor of Le Havre since 2010, will now occupy the Hôtel Matignon, traditional headquarters of French prime ministers, at the President’s pleasure, charged with putting together a cabinet that, following the June elections, will be drawn not just from En Marche, but from the centre-right Républicains and whatever remains of the Socialist Party.

Phillipe, aged 46, is a close associate of the one-time premier Alain Juppé, beaten by François Fillon in the centre-right’s primary to select the Conservative runner for the presidential race. Juppé was an obvious candidate for the Matignon, but is thought to be in a bit of a sulk, who preferred to hold on to his day job as mayor of Bordeaux.Responding to the appointment of Edouard Philippe, M. Juppé praised the new prime minister as a man of “great talent”. Macron will be hoping this is an accurate assessment, for as he jetted out to Berlin yesterday evening for a quick getting-to-know-you summit with Angela Merkel, he was relying on Philippe to come up with likely names to fill the great offices of state.

French presidents hate cohabitation, under which they are sometimes obliged to share power with politicians from parties not their own. In Macron’s case, given that his new administration cannot be guaranteed parliamentary support, he will be looking to form a government of all the talents. Come June, when a new Parliament is summoned, he should be free to make a few adjustments to his team, but the likelihood remains that he is planning a coalition approach built around the central planks of his platform. 

The mandate he has been given by French voters gives him freedom to pursue reforms of the country’s notoriously inflexible labour laws, including the 35-hour week, and to find ways of cutting some 120,000 jobs in the bloated public sector. – which is not the same thing as saying that voters will not oppose change. He also faces the tricky task of defeating the scourge of islamist terrorism and reconciling Muslims to their ongoing status as French citizens. On top of all this, he intends to work with Merkel to reform the European Union, bolstering the single currency and championing, with her, a stronger element of democratic control. Finally (for now), there is Brexit, which he has decried as an act of self-harm on the part of British voters that must meet with a stern reponse from the 27. 

No problems there, then. Over the next weeks, he and Philippe will work together to appoint men and women to the top jobs: interior minister, foreign minister, finance minister, economy minister and defence minister, with half the appointments going to women, some of whom will be completely new to national politics. Whether they come from left, right, or centre, all will be required to adhere to the President’s agenda – details of which have yet fully to emerge.

It is a tall order, made all the more difficult by the uncertain nature of the June elections. But Macron is already a specialist in the tall order department. A little over ayear ago, he was a nobody, whose tenure as economy minister under Manuel Valls as prime minister and François Hollande as President had proved less than stellar. Having stepped down from the cabinet, to which he had been appointed without ever proving himself with voters, he created En Marche almost overnight and 14 months later stormed the Elysée.

France could be on the brink of economic and social revival. That is certainly Macron’s promise. But there is also a chance that everything could go horribly wrong, starting with the elections. Marine Le Pen is not a spent force. Her Front National could end up with the strength in parliament to frustrate the President’s ambitions. Macron, however, has the wind in his sails. He also possesses that quality that the last man in his 30s to rule France – Napoléon Bonaparte – had in abundance: luck.