Monday, May 23, early morning. At 127 rue de Grenelle in Paris, Elisabeth Borne is about to hand over the keys to the Ministry of Labor to her former government colleague Olivier Dussopt. The new Prime Minister takes the floor for the traditional transfer of power. In a solemn tone, he praises the value of work, “the key to dignity, the opportunity to make a contribution to society and earn a living for oneself”. A prelude to a remarkable anaphora: “Work is what gives meaning to life (…) It is the promise of emancipation, it is what allows talents to be highlighted and effort to be rewarded.”
Sequence, widely commented on social networks, matches perfectly with the head of government’s own career. Her rich resume attests to this: Minister of Transport, Ecological Transition, then Working under Macron’s first five-year term, she started as an adviser to various left-wing ministers in the 1990s. Director General of Planning of the Paris City Hall, also she was prefect of the Poitou-Charentes region but also rubbed shoulders with the business world at the SNCF, at Eiffage or as head of the RATP.
Prestigious positions where he had the opportunity to work with hundreds of collaborators. A dozen of them agreed to tell franceinfo, on condition of anonymity, the Borne method, already described in 2018 in The world. The newspaper then quoted “a good connoisseur of the company” evoking the unflattering nickname the boss had inherited: “exhaustion”. If some of her former collaborators demolish that image of a chef who squeezes her subordinates, they all agree on one point: Elisabeth Borne is extremely demanding.
Very demanding? A former SNCF executive answers in the affirmative. He rubbed shoulders with the Matignon tenant when she was the railway company’s director of strategy from 2002 to 2007. “Calling her demanding, to me, is weak. It was almost capricious.” He claims, for example, to have refused to shorten his vacation following a request from Elisabeth Borne which, according to him, could be processed by email. “Literally ruined my vacationhe laments. It was appalling and petty.”
“She has a very advanced approach and doesn’t hesitate to bombard her teams with file clarification requests. She’s a workaholic.”A former SNCF executive
“workaholic”: the expression is once again on the lips of several former colleagues. The Prime Minister’s entourage confirmed to franceinfo that Elisabeth Borne “he is a professionally demanding person” but that“At this level of responsibility, it cannot be otherwise.”
As a result, the pace of work is extremely steady under him although, for some, it’s part of the contract from the start. “I have rarely seen someone who had a capacity for work like her. She is demanding with her collaborators, but above all with herself. If this is a problem for you, you should not go.”explains one of his former advisers at the Ministry of Labor, who generally worked from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. “She’s older, but she doesn’t need much sleep”he says.
Another adviser nods. “The files, the interviews, you have to prepare them. She calls you directly at 23:30. You are to answer and comment on the subject. When you’re in the office, that’s the job.” The Prime Minister’s entourage acknowledges that“It could happen that she sends an SMS late to her collaborators, because she herself was working on a file or in crisis management”. However, we add “She never demanded an answer until the next morning.”
Still, with Elisabeth Borne at the helm, it’s best to avoid improvisations or approaches, at the risk of upsetting her. “She can be tough when she feels like things aren’t going right, because she likes to stay on top of things, reports another of his subordinates. You have to learn to work with it.” For others, it is a sign of the Prime Minister’s dedication to her role.
“She is very committed. I prefer to have a minister who is interested in the issues and gives her vision than a minister who does not care”.A former ministerial adviser to Elisabeth Borne
“As a chief, prefect or minister, we handle heavy files or crisessupports the entourage of this 61-year-old woman. In the RATP, there are issues of continuity of public service at all times. The same as prefect, where you manage the life of the territory 24 hours a day”.
Does this heavy workload always lead to the expected results? Some doubt it. “He finds it difficult to separate the professional from the personal. We expect that in ‘taxi,’ but sometimes we go around in circles doing meetings for the sake of meetings. It’s his way of operating.”supports an adviser to Elisabeth Borne in her beginnings in government.
This same adviser tells how “that monk-soldier” he likes, when he approaches a subject, “Dissect it, cut it up and go into the finer details. It can be challenged at kilometer 21 of the A7 motorway,” slips, for example. According to him, this engineer’s demands on the technical side have somewhat overshadowed the political vision that any minister should have.
“When you are a minister, you are not a central administration director. One is supposed to give a line. She can be so absorbed in technique that she forgets what she’s defending.”A former adviser to Elisabeth Borne
Others, on the contrary, praise his ability to handle complex situations and set a course. “During the pension reform crisis, he mobilized a lot, reviewed all the issues and led the consultations directly with the unions, Jean-Paul Delevoye and Laurent Pietraszewski”, remember one of them. Qualities recognized by former collaborators of Elisabeth Borne at the RATP, which she directed from 2015 to 2017. “She knows how to keep a cool headassures one of his former subordinates. She doesn’t lose her means and isn’t afraid of arbitration.”
Hardworking, demanding, but not necessarily austere. His teams portray a woman who It also has a lot of humor and second grade.” “Caricatures in the press made her laugh”says one of his former advisers. Another asserts that“She is much more attentive to human affairs than you think, she has a lot of modesty”. The Prime Minister’s entourage likes to point out that Elisabeth Borne also has “He maintained close ties with a large number of former collaborators whom he sees regularly.” Moments of coexistence were also organized at the beginning of the five-year period.
“At that time, we would have appetizers on Friday nights where she would explain her vision of things and joke around. And then the agenda was full.”A former ministerial collaborator of Elisabeth Borne
Weeks go by, files and tensions accumulate. In this case, some criticize him for a management that has nothing to do with collegiality. “She is more in mode: ‘I go for her and the others follow'”, said a former adviser. The hesitant tone, another evokes “a temperament sometimes difficult to manage” with “a vehement tone”. It stops and then continues: “Sometimes too much.”
A way of doing things that you have to live with. “When she is not happy, she lets it be known, but these are really healthy angers, as her former minister would say,” explains a former cabinet member, referring to a replica of Ségolène Royal, of which Elisabeth Borne was the chief of staff. “Yes, she is very effective”there is an ex-collaborator who followed her in two ministries.
Now at the head of the government, Elisabeth Borne must rally the majority, manage a larger cabinet at Matignon, and give direction to the administration. At the meeting of ministers on Friday May 27 under her authority, she put “three slogans” : “speed, efficiency and results”. Du Borne all spat.