Emmanuel Macron sleeps little, works late and travels unrelentingly, but France’s famously fresh-faced president is beginning to show the strain of political scandals, plunging approval ratings and ministerial resignations.
Like Margaret Thatcher, the 40-year-old president is renowned for surviving on three or four hours sleep a night, but sources close to the president said that after 18 months in the Elysée Palace, the strains of office are starting to become evident.
“He’s visibly losing weight,” a member of his inner circle told Le Parisien newspaper.
Aides also said he sometimes looked “exhausted and hollow-cheeked”, although France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon Bonaparte usually masks the signs of fatigue with make-up when appearing in public. However, after criticism of the £23,000 spent on cosmetics during his first three months as president he was forced to cut back.
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Friends of Mr Macron played down the effect of his plummeting popularity.
“Most presidents age dramatically in office,” a highly-placed source told the Telegraph. “It happened to Obama and Blair. It isn’t related to political developments or day-to-day opinion polls.”
France has yet to feel the benefits of Mr Macron’s bold and sometimes painful economic reforms. After nearly 18 months in power, disillusionment is growing.
“It’s a period of doubt,” a source close to the president told Le Parisien. “He’s doubting everything.”
Another official said Mr Macron was guilty of “micro-management” and “should delegate more".
Others in his entourage blamed his advisors. “Every time he tries to prise open a door, he hits a wall, there’s a blunder or a failure,” one source said. “Those around him want to curry favour, not serve him. It’s not fair when he’s working himself to death.”
Mr Macron sets himself a punishing schedule. On Monday he toured areas of southern France devastated by floods. Later this week he will visit Slovakia and the Czech Republic, followed by an eight-day trip to northern and eastern France.
The president has already chalked up 66 foreign trips and 170 in France in what a former presidential aide described as an “infernal rhythm”. A senior government source said: “It’s inhuman.”
Mr Macron was damaged by a scandal over a security aide filmed beating protesters during the summer, and by his own clumsy off-the-cuff remarks, which repeatedly caused offence.
He was forced to postpone a recent cabinet reshuffle after finding it difficult to fill posts in his beleaguered government.
Compounding his woes, his party now appears rudderless after losing its former chief, Christophe Castaner, named interior minister in the reshuffle.