Exclusive Interview: Pierre Morel-A-L’Huissier

Pierre Morel-A-L’Huissier
Photo: Assemblée Nationale

PARIS—Wednesday September 26th, in a small office next to the National Assembly, La Jeune Politique interviewed Pierre Morel à l’Huissier, an Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire(UMP) deputy of France’s smallest department, Lozère. He welcomed the chance to talk about his profession, his new role as an opponent of the current majority party, and about the UMP, a party currently immersed in a battle for the election of its president. But the main battle for Pierre Morel is the recognition of rural areas in France, where policy only passes through the capital. He even formed a political movement: the Rural Right. With the meeting of the States General of territorial democracy in early October, decentralization and administrative-level reform will be once again at the heart of French political debate. In this interview, he explains his visions of the organization of the country.

Lozère, France’s smallest department
Photo: Flickr.com/GOC53

What is the perception of rural areas in a centralized state like France?

There are not many of us who defend the rural [areas]. However, the French territory is 80% rural but unfortunately of this 80%, there are only 11 million inhabitants compared to the rest of the population that is found in the cities. There is therefore a problem of representation and we have a difficulty making [people] admit that rural areas should be treated in a special way.

While we are talking about a reform of the organization of the French administrative map, do you think departments still have a role to play in the development of territories?

Today there is too much stratification between the town, the department, the municipalities, the region, the State, Europe. The citizen gets lost. He no longer knows who is doing what. There is already a clarification to make there. Then, concerning the problem of maintaining the department in relation to the region, there are big risks that the department is no longer considered an appropriate division.

Can we still defend certain territories despite their future elimination?

I think what will appear in the future is the grouping of towns into municipalities. The addition of towns or cities will be the first division and then will come come the region. The basic unit is the town, as it cannot suffice, it must be regrouped. The departmental level will then merge with others.

You have just submitted a report to the President of the Republic about the simplification of policy standards for rural areas. Is this another solution for reasserting their value?

This Wednesday, we spent the morning on a bill that I proposed and that establishes the principle of adaptability of standards. That is to say, it would create a new legal principle that would allow differentiate between urban and rural standards. The concept is recognized by the left and the right. When you are in rural areas or small towns, there are standards that apply. However, the standard is always made in Paris to apply throughout the territory, but when it comes to apply standards of safety, sanitation or construction in a town of 50 people in the same way as in a town of 500,000 people, it is disproportionate. Therefore we must make it more flexible.

The States General of territorial democracy will take place in early October, and will inevitably have on the agenda the elimination of the territorial adviser, what do you think about that?

I was against the territorial adviser, because it meant to make one single person at the same time a general adviser and a regional adviser. He would spend part of his time in the department and a part of his time in the region. How can he practice the two mandates? The problem is constitutional. Article 72 of the constitution says that communities are freely administered and none can exercise authority over another. Therefore, the territorial adviser who is in his department and that happens in the region, they will say, “if you do not act like that we will not help you in your department.” There would be a loss of freedom of action.

How you analyze the increasing importance of the FN vote in rural departments?

People are frustrated by a finicky administration, by unworkable standards impossible to apply. It criticizes the national system of regulating the territories too much. Normative asphyxia is the focus of this reaction. This FN vote is an expression of being fed up of the current difficulties. We saw this trend as the FN was at 3 to 4% in Lozère before and it went to 18% in the Presidential election. It is symptomatic of this period when people no longer support constraints.

Does being to the right or the left count in rural areas?

This was not but it is becoming the case. We can see in rural departments like Aveyron, Lozère, a surge of leftist ideas that were the minority. I think the public is becoming increasingly politicized. Moreover, in rural areas there was a right-wing electorate because it was agricultural, while today the agricultural community is scarce. Sociological change makes it so we have more and more new arrivals, people who are retired or outside the agricultural life, who have opinions other than leftist ones.

Being a deputy of the opposition, is it a new job?

Completely. First, one is no longer invited by the Ministers. The relations with the institution change, they propose things and we contradict them. Criticizing is easy! And there may be a lot of bad faith in criticism.

Your voice has also become more open, as we saw this summer with your tweets criticizing the intervention of Nicolas Sarkozy on the Syrian case or even “the incompetence” of some members of the former government?

One can be much more rebellious than when you are in the majority, where we are caught in a system. Our role is to support a comprehensive policy, although we don’t marry all of its nuances.

You support Jean Francois Copé for the UMP elections, why?

He is the most direct and least hypocritical. When he has something to tell you he tells you. But in politics there are many people who say “I’ll take care of you” and never do. So I prefer to have someone who tells you “no” clearly. In addition, the objective of François Fillon is not that of the party. Once elected, it is clear that he will make Valérie Pécresse secretary general of the UMP. I am looking for a patron of the party, not a presidential candidate.

What should the UMP’s line of policy be in the opposition?

I am pretty atypical about this. I am not an UMP deputy who attacks everything. I am ready to vote on a number of texts as the golden rule that will be proposed with the European Treaty, such as the removal of the Territorial Council, as perhaps no law against dual mandates. We must keep in mind that we are deputies of 577 and that we must uphold the general interest outside of any ideology. If we lock ourselves into ideology too much, I do not think we do useful work for our country. A deputy is a piece of land and a piece of the French nation.

Personally you vote for the law about dual mandates?

Yes, but there is a lot of hypocrisy. Socialists arrive…saying we’re going to wipe the slate clean of the past. In fact, I am convinced that the law against dual mandates will not pass and that in their own ranks, there are PS senators who do not want to abandon their positions.

But do you think some terms are not useful for a better anchoring in the territory?

The law against dual mandates should not apply to rural areas because to have impact, one must be a mayor, general adviser. What is facing large cities, to be President of a General or Regional Council. Being mayor of a small town today, that does not bother anyone.

What do you think of the announcement by the President of the National Assembly to reduce the representational allowance and mandate expenses granted to the deputies by 10%?

I find it ridiculous and it is not correct with respect to the population. They will explain that they have moralized public life and on the side of that we recruit our wives. (Claude Bartelone, President of the National Assembly, has hired his wife as an associate.) The Socialists, it is thesis, antithesis and especially do not do what I do.

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  1. […] Morel-A-L’Huissier, whose concern at gaps in of rural development has led him to set up the Rural Right movement, sought to enjoin the state to identify what are called “areas of digital disability” […]

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