A bomb, political and media, falls in the red studio of France Inter. It is 8:27 am, Tuesday August 28, 2018. Nicolas Hulot has decided to end his responsibilities as Minister of State for the Ecological Transition and number three in the government: “I am going to make the most difficult decision for the first time. my life. I don't want to lie to myself anymore. I do not want to give the illusion that my presence in the government means that we are up to these issues, ”he announces, his throat tight, his eyes red from the night he has just spent. ruminate. “And so… I make the decision to leave the government. Today, ”he concludes.
No one saw it coming. Neither his relatives, not even his wife. The President of the Republic is not better served: still in his private apartments at the Elysée Palace when the news falls, Emmanuel Macron learns it like everyone else by listening to the radio. "A muflerie", commented afterwards an adviser to the president. The journalist Léa Salamé, she is blown away. " Are you serious? She asks. Hulot's unequivocal response: “Yes, I'm serious. "
After fifteen months spent on the benches of the government, the former star of “Ushuaia” has therefore decided to end it. If the news is abrupt, it is anything but a surprise. He had been dragging his discomfort in the corridors of power for weeks. “It never went the way he wanted. He was not happy in his job ", says today a minister who remembers a Hulot" in perpetual suffering, unpredictable, sometimes temperamental. We felt that it could go peanut at any time with him. "
"When he entered the studio, he hadn't made up his mind yet"
The media pressure, the weight of the lobbies, the difficulties to obtain arbitrations in its favor, the controversies around its heritage, the accusations of rape of the magazine "Ebdo" - which has since closed its doors - such as the wars hidden with his former Green friends, will have finally got the better of the most popular minister in the government. “Nicolas got up this morning telling himself that he had no more energy. It was all too hard for him. Too many obstacles, too much resistance. He no longer supported all this weight on his shoulders ”, confides the day after this announcement, in our newspaper, his friend Jean-Claude Besset, former MEP for EELV.
Hulot made this radical choice at the very last moment. “When he walked into the studio, he hadn't made up his mind yet. It was played on the spot, when Léa Salamé began the list of all the concessions that he had ended up accepting in recent months, ”remembers another old fellow traveler, Allain Bougrain-Dubourg. And the most recent even occurred the day before, during a meeting on the reform of hunting organized at the Elysee Palace. The drop of water that ended up overflowing the camel's back ...
During this meeting supposed to lead to an acceptable agreement between environmentalists and hunters, Hulot is initially surprised by the plethora of representation of the latter. Particularly of a personality that he hardly appreciates and whose presence he is even surprised by: the lobbyist Thierry Coste who has been playing his influence for more than twenty years in the arcana of power, and rural adviser to the candidate Macron during presidential campaign. The two men met in the summer of 2016 through the senator of Côte-d'Or François Patriat, himself a friend of the president.
"I fell into a trap"
The minister smells the trap. Especially since during this meeting organized in the Green room, the one adjacent to the presidential office, the government ecologist attends the spectacle of a Head of State multiplying the assaults of kindness against hunters ... whose vote he covets for the next European elections. "I fell into a trap," he confided to a friend two hours later, leaving the meeting. While at the same time, in front of the cameras, the other participants will smile broadly, even talking about a "historic day for rurality".
To his friend Bougrain-Dubourg, whom he calls on the phone on his way back to the Hôtel de Roquelaure, Nicolas Hulot then lets go of his dismay: “What happened this evening is unacceptable. I'm not going to make a decision there just yet. I let the night pass. But tomorrow, anything is possible. In any case, I will have an important decision to make… ”, he assures us.
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The rest, we discover it the next morning on the airwaves of France Inter. "It's the most painful decision," he whispers into the microphone to justify his departure. “But I know that on my own I can't do it. I do not have the influence, nor the power, nor the means, ”he concludes, as a way of crucifying an Emmanuel Macron who was already in great difficulty that summer with the Benalla affair. Did he have the shoulders to be a minister? "The question is worth asking ... maybe not," Hulot resolves.
And now? An ecologist in Matignon? "It would have the mouth", confided Nicolas Hulot in early July on France Info, the day after the municipal elections marked by the push of environmentalists, and just before the departure of Edouard Philippe. Since leaving government affairs, the former TV presenter has been careful to stay away from politics.
He nevertheless retained his functions of honorary president of the Foundation for nature and man, and regularly intervenes in the media on major climate issues. For the rest, his life is mainly divided between his Breton villa of Saint-Lunaire, a pretty seaside resort facing Saint-Malo, and Corsica where he also spends part of his time.
A five-year crisis period in 6 episodes
1. The day Macron disowned General de Villiers
2. The day Macron was confronted with the Benalla affair
3. The day Macron learned of Nicolas Hulot's resignation
4. The day when Macron feared that the yellow vests would invade the Elysee
5. The day Macron saw Notre-Dame burn
6. The day Macron confined the country