So it’s goodbye Xavier Bertrand and farewell Michel Barnier. The candidate chosen by France’s centre-right Républicains to go up against Emmanuel Macron in next Spring’s presidential elections will be either Éric Ciotti, a member of the National Assembly from the Alpes-Maritime since 2007, or Valérie Pécresse, head of the Île de France, the country’s largest region, centred on Paris.
Bertrand had been the favourite for most of the last three months, with Barnier coming up on the rails in recent days. But in the end it was Ciotti who won the most votes – 25.59 per cent – from delegates to a special congress, just pipping Pécresse on 25 per cent.
Barnier came in third, just fractionally behind Pécresse, leaving Bertrand in fourth place, with 22.36 per cent. Both men were humiliated. The former EU Brexit negotiator had entered the race at a late stage having neglected French politics for the last 20 years in favour of a career in Brussels. No doubt fancying himself as the most sophisticated and internationally recognised face in the face, he believed that the two decades missing in his national cv were a mere bagatelle. He was wrong.