French President Emmanuel Macron has finally agreed to a U-turn. The news coming out of the Champs-Elysée is that planned tax hikes on fuel will be put on hold for six months. This is good news for the government. For in the short-term, it likely means avoiding a state of emergency to deal with ongoing violent protests.The so-called yellow vests first took to the streets last month. And though numbers have been falling over the last three weeks — the message stands as strong as ever. Agitation has now taken on a decidedly anti-Macron turn; with focus on falling living standards and unemployment. Indeed, the ex-investment banker is often referred to as the president of the rich. Indeed, even when hitting the election campaign, Macron’s seeming contempt for the poor and working-class became all too apparent. He has been known to tell these groups to go out and cross the street to find work. Thereby echoing Thatcherism with its underlying belief that the socio-economically marginalised are victims of their own laziness. Thus the state is able to conveniently abdicate itself of all responsibility when it comes to upholding the social contract with the citizenry.Macron is now said to be open for dialogue. But as far as the yellow vests are concerned, there is nothing to negotiate. Their only demand is to improve living standards for the poor. And according to polls, 72 percent of the French people support them. All of which translates into a damning verdict for a president just 18 months into his tenure. That being said, it would be wrong to accuse Macron of reneging on his pre-poll mandate. Never did he promise a re-energised welfare state; buoyant on regular cash injections. Rather, he campaigned on a pro-EU campaign that was taking place in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous Brexit vote across the Channel. It was also a time when the National Front’s Marine Le Pen was pledging referendums on quitting both the Union and the euro. These two divergent positions therefore making it all the easier to celebrate Macron as anti-xenophobic. Yet where there is disdain for the working-class — immigrants and refugees are never far behind.What needs to happen now is for France to learn from Britain and the England riots of 2011. These were sparked by austerity measures introduced by the Cameron regime that hit the most vulnerable; while multinationals were given a free tax ride. Back then, both the government and a certain former Prime Minister took ordinary citizens to task over their feral-like behaviour and greed when it came to televised looting sprees. Meaning that Downing Street did not hold itself to any sort of account. There is no need for Paris to go down the same route. But this will require overcoming immense hubris while recognising that the political leadership is there to serve the people. Not the other way around. After all, there is already talk of a European Winter following in the footsteps of the Arab Spring. *Published in Daily Times, December 5th 2018.