Can friendships withstand the harshness of political struggle?
One week before the first round of the regionals, the result could serve as a crash test in the relationship that has linked Xavier Bertrand and Gérald Darmanin for more than ten years.
One is now outgoing president of Hauts-de-France (Divers Right), the other is Minister of the Interior of Emmanuel Macron and on the presidential majority list of Laurent Pietraszewski.
In last position, therefore not eligible, of course.
But in fact, an opponent anyway ...
Six years ago, the story was quite different: Darmanin was Bertrand's campaign manager against Marine Le Pen, then he was his vice-president for a year and a half.
“He played a central role in Xavier's victory.
He saw everyone, brought everyone together, ”recalls Senator LR from the North Marc-Philippe Daubresse.
“At the head of the region, they have formed a tight-knit pair.
He was his real right-hand man, ”continues the LR deputy of Pas-de-Calais Pierre-Henri Dumont.
If there is a triangular on the evening of the first round ...
“But the only question that matters today is knowing what Gerald will do on the evening of the first round.
In case of triangular or quadrangular, will he advise Pietraszewski to withdraw to prevent the RN from winning and facilitate Bertrand's victory?
Or will he remain silent, at the risk of losing his friend?
"Asks an En Marche executive, who is aware that the second option would also kill the ambitions of the president of Hauts-de-France for 2022." At the moment, I would not like to be in his place " , sums up a mutual friend.
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This presence in the regional, the tenant of Beauvau assumes it and swears to have taken the decision voluntarily.
"I am consistent," he hammers in private, in accordance with his choice to have joined Macronie in May 2017. "Bullshit, Macron put him under hellish pressure.
If he had been able to avoid going there, of course that would have arranged it, ”retorts a minister.
And the person concerned to specify on May 21, in our columns, that “Xavier Bertrand has been a friend for a long time.
This friendship, it remains and will remain, independently of political life ”.
When they see each other, they avoid talking politics
The last time the two men met was on March 25, for a tribute in honor of a firefighter who died in the fire, in Feuquières-en-Vimeu (Somme). Nothing more. Bertrand was not at Darmanin's wedding at the end of August 2020. But they saw each other with their respective wives last December, where political matters were ostensibly put aside.
That's all the subtlety of their relationship.
In public, when the former mayor of Saint-Quentin is in charge of Emmanuel Macron's security policy, he always takes care to spare his young minister.
As he praises his fight against the RN: “Gérald will remain one of the few who will be able, in the long term, to continue to thwart the rise of extremes.
And they are not that many in political life, ”he confides to the Parisian-Today in France.
In return, the first cop in France often recalls that, in his region, "Bertrand was a courageous president".
Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior with a meteoric career: portrait of a man in a hurry
An ambiguity which is not without creating a stir in Macronie: "Will Darmanin have loyalty at all costs to Macron or is it the wolf in the sheepfold?" I do not know what to think ”, wonders a heavyweight of the government. "He wants to keep all the doors open," translates a confidant of the Head of State, who suspects him of wanting to have it both ways. " It is unfair. Gérald does not have double talk and all his commitment since 2017 shows it. He also thinks that Xavier has no political space, he would like to see him join Emmanuel Macron ”, retorts a support. Unthinkable for Bertrand, who reaffirms for all intents and purposes: "He will remain my friend ... whatever happens." "