Since this summer, the phone of Xavier Bertrand sounds great. And even more since the announced withdrawal of the mayor (LR) of Troyes, Francois Baroin, of the presidential race. Since he broke with Les Républicains in 2017, they were however rare, until now, to bet on the president of the Hauts-de-France Region for 2022. While an Ifop poll published last Sunday in the JDD places him at the head of potential right-wing candidates, the man has therefore embarked on a reconciliation operation with his former friends, multiplying the one-on-one.
After having seen the president of LR, Christian Jacob, on September 30, he had breakfast on Wednesday with the one who was for a long time a sworn enemy, Jean-François Cope. He exchanges regularly with Damien Abad and Rachida Dati, who sang his praises recently, saw Eric Woerth, must see Eric Ciotti again, heals the influential president of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, has never stopped talking with his rivals Bruno Retailleau and Valérie Pécresse, and François Baroin household. While waiting to meet with the one who remains “the” inescapable personality of the right: ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy. The appointment is already made. They will meet at the beginning of November.
The Bertrand galaxy
At the National Assembly, it is the deputy (LR) for Aisne, Julien Dive, who has the mission of cultivating friendships by organizing meetings in small committees around Bertrand. The last, in mid-July, attracted around fifteen parliamentarians. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday morning, with recently elected MPs. The following week, the senator (LR) of Pas-de-Calais Jean-François Rapin, also godfather of the son of Bertrand, must do the same within the High Assembly. For several months now, LR’s deputy vice-president, Guillaume Peltier, has also been part of the system. “He plays an important role and he will play a key role tomorrow”, slips someone close to Bertrand.
The logic is to create a credible alternative to Macron, and for that we must bring together as widely as possible
In the Bertrand galaxy, there are also the deputies (LR) Eric Diard, Stéphane Viry, Maxime Minot, the former LREM Frédérique Dumas, and the senator (LR) Dominique Estrosi-Sassone. On the local elected side, he relies on the department presidents Pascal Coste (Corrèze), François Durovray (Essonne), Jean-René Lecerf (North), Christian Bruyen (Marne) and Maurice Chabert (Vaucluse). And there are those, outside politics, who form the inner circle. Among them: his spin doctor Michel Bettan, vice-president of Havas. An eighteen year old friend. Or the investment banker Philippe Villin, who has been organizing dinners for him for years with business leaders. “We will have to work with everyone, emphasizes Julien Dive. The logic is to create a credible alternative to Macron, and for that we must bring together as widely as possible.”
But Xavier Bertrand is not limited to the right. In his fishing for ideas, man uses a large net. He scours think tanks, meets regularly with left-wing personalities such as Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Arnaud Montebourg, or the former secretary general of Force Ouvrière Jean-Claude Mailly. During the yellow vests crisis, he exchanged with the deputy LREM (now a member of the EDS group) Emilie Cariou. He also saw the former Prime Minister of François Hollande Bernard Cazeneuve, and recently had lunch with Eric Zemmour. “I’m eclectic,” he smiles. “It is methodical: a guy only needs to do half a page in The diplomatic world so that he calls him to see him, finds an elected LR who does not like him. The worst part is that it can work! “
17 thematic working groups
But since 2017, it is on a handful of faithful that it relies. For the most part unknown to the general public, they are today the main cogs of the Bertrand system. At the heart of the system, its Manufacture. Founded in 2013, the association was reactivated in 2018 after having hibernated for a long time. Its role: to constitute an idea box for a future presidential project, and to weave a network.
It is managed by Jean Spiri, regional councilor for Ile-de-France and Bertrand’s former employee at the Ministry of Health, with around ten regional delegates who meet each week by videoconference. Among them: the president of the LR group at the Marseille city council, Catherine Pila; Corsican Franck Giovannucci, former political advisor to Bernard Laporte at the Secretary of State for Sports; Sébastien Martin, president of the agglomeration community of Grand Chalon (Saône-et-Loire); the deputy mayor of Reims (Marne) Charles Germain; the young elected LR from Oyonnax (Ain) Julien Martinez; and Gilles Veissière, former sports assistant to the mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi. The organization claims relays in 98 departments and has grown over the opening of “branches”. Xavier Bertrand will inaugurate a new one Thursday in Essonne – by videoconference, Covid obliges. It should be established in the coming months in Corrèze, Var, Alsace, Lorraine, Hérault, Ardennes, Sarthe, Drôme, but also in Saint-Malo, Rouen, Angoulême or Belfort.
When Xavier Bertrand comes to a department, he meets entrepreneurs, doctors, police officers … and he makes contacts
For each new branch, Bertrand organizes a meeting in the form of a debate with the public. He took the opportunity to meet elected officials and local personalities. The Manufacture is “a spider’s web”, explains one of his relatives, MP LR Eric Diard: “When Xavier Bertrand comes to a department, he meets entrepreneurs, doctors, police officers… and he takes advice. contacts. ” Which will feed its thematic working groups: seventeen to date, in which nearly 200 contributors (experts, professionals or students) actively participate. Their mission: to provide ideas and assess those submitted to them by Bertrand. They work under the leadership of Matthias Baccino, vice-president of the Concorde Foundation think tank. Bertrand then tests his ideas in vivo during La Manufacture meetings, or by emailing the association’s 30,000 (free) members.
“We work a lot”, assures Julien Martinez, regional delegate in Oyonnax. He will say no more: instructions have been given to remain silent. Bertrand does not want to open the doors of his Manufacture. “I want to make a difference on the ideas and I want these ideas to come from afar, he confides. I know that anti-macronism does not make a project. What I want to ask is a choice of society.” If Baroin had declared himself a candidate for LR, the think tank was intended to quickly transform into a pro-Bertrand electoral machine. The mayor of Troyes stepping aside, it is urgent to wait. In full rapprochement with The Republicans, no way, by ostensibly setting up his own shop on their land, to offend elected LR or UDI who could support him tomorrow.