Les Fourberies du Président

12 Jan

Oh dear – another fine mess I’ve got myself into.

Like many others, I have been following the latest sex-scandal afflicting French President Francois Hollande. I say “latest” because his so-called private life has been pretty colourful and given plenty of ammunition to the French media in the past – as indeed did the goings-on of Nicolas Sarkozy before him.

Is my interest in this purely voyeurism? Are the philanderings of the French President my concern? The French establishment would have us believe “Non”: “everyone has a right to a private life,” they bleat.

Well, yes, up to a point …. As it happens, now living in Germany, I worked in France for ten years and still have a house there which we haven’t managed to sell yet. I also get a modest pension from France from my work for the local Chamber of Commerce. I am therefore a French taxpayer, which is not a role for the faint-hearted. As such I therefore contribute to the remuneration of the President of France and thus feel I have some entitlement to know how my taxes are spent, and indeed what sort of person the President is, he having been put in charge of my money.

Well, having decided that up to a point his personality, character and conduct ARE my business – and also that a President cannot be judged in quite the same way as a private citizen – I decided to establish a few facts from which I could draw conclusions – which would no doubt be different from those someone else might draw.

What then are the facts?
  • Francois Hollande had four children with his partner of 30 years, Mme Ségolène Royale, but they never married.
  • In 2007, he left Mme Royale for another woman, journalist Mme Valérie Trierweiler.
  • When Mr Hollande became President, Mme Trierweiler moved with him into the Elysée Palace in Paris, the official home of the French President. She was generally referred to as as “the First Lady of France”, even though of course they were not married.
  • It was reported that she has five personal servants and access to presidential transport such as planes and cars. The cost of this, of course, is borne by the French taxpayer.
  • Last week the magazine “Closer” ran a story alleging that Mr Hollande was having an affair with an actress 20 years his junior, Mlle Julie Gayet. Rumours of this liaison had in fact been circulating for some months in the corridors of power – and in various press-rooms and bars, no doubt – but this was the first time the affair had been publicized.
  • Mr Holland complained about “this invasion of my privacy” and threatened to sue the magazine, though without denying the story. The 7 pages of “revelations” and photos included some of the President apparently trying to disguise  himself by wearing a crash-helmet as he entered the building where Mme Gayet lives.
  • It seems that the President travelled to Ms Gayet’s dwelling (which is very near to the Elysée) on a scooter accompanied by a single bodyguard, who rather quaintly is alleged to have been charged with getting croissants in the morning.
  • It is not clear at this point whether Partner N° 2 (Trierweiler) knew about partner N° 3 (Gayet) before the article broke last week, but as we go to press it is reported that Ms Teierweiler has been hospitalised – apparently for treatment for  “exhaustion”.
  • It is also not clear whether she still resides at the Elysée Palace or indeed whether she and the President are still “an item”. If she IS, then it would seem that Mr Hollande has two items on the go simultaneously – assuming that he still has Mme Gayet in tow (it’s a fast-moving scenario).

OK – these are the facts as far as I know. The question is, is all this anyone else’s business? I have thought about this a bit, and come to the conclusion that it is.

  1. Firstly, he is the President of a nuclear-armed country which is in a complete financial, economic and social shambles. Has he really got time to spend philandering with two women? “He needs a lot of relaxation for his extreme stress.” Well, yes – power does seem to stimulate the carnal juices rather, but even so …… managing two women at once is usually fairly fraught.Is it not selfish in the extreme to have put Mme Trierweiler in this humiliating position? Would not common decency have required that he end his relationship with her – and presumably boot her out of the Elysée Palace – before embarking on yet another liaison?
  2. Or is the media entirely to blame for this? Can a President do what he likes with whom he likes, where, when and as often as he likes? Many French people think so: others maybe not: there are limits to everything.
  3. “None of our business”? Well, I am helping to pay for all this, including Mme Trierweiler’s five members of staff and all the rest. Moreover, I am not sure I want someone as President who displays what I would consider a lack of common, human and personal decency.
  4. And of course there is the marriage aspect. It is generally accepted that marriage is a “good thing” for society, yet Mr Hollande shies away from it, in the first instance for 30 years while having four children. His position on marriage is weird. What sort of message does this behaviour give to the people of France about the institution of marriage? What has Mr Hollande got against marriage, which is a personal commitment? his is not a very good example to set.
  5. Mr Hollande is not a private citizen; for better or worse higher standards of behaviour and morality are expected and demanded of a national leader than those displayed by Mr Hollande.
  6. No, I am not personally interested in tabloid muck-raking in general, but when it comes to the President of France I am prepared to make an exception. And in any case, the President was only too willing to show off Mme Trierweiler to the world and house her at public expense in the Elysée Palace, so he can surely not have it both ways: use her for his image on the one hand but then claim he has a right to hide anything negative on the other. Or can he?
  7. Was it really safe to go wandering off on a scooter with just one bodyguard? Suppose he had been kidnapped by Al Qaeda? No, he didn’t have far to go, but even so ….

My bottom-line is that he is a selfish cad. And to be honest, I would rather not be led by such people.

The story no doubt has more mileage in it, particular as far as Mme Trierweiler is concerned. One has for her a great deal of sympathy, as indeed for Mme Royale, who never achieved marriageworthy status with Mr Hollande even though she gave him four children.

And of course, we cannot UNKNOW about the story. I didn’t publish it, but I couldn’t help reading about it, could I? So SHOULD publication of the truth be banned? I am not generally in favour of banning the truth, even if it is “private”. But IS it “private” if it concerns the President of France?

As is clear, there are a number of questions this affair throws up, not the least being why these French politicians are so over-sexed. Is it something in the diet?

None of the above of course is relevant to his stewardship of France, even though that is surreally incompetent and clueless – a story we can safely leave to another day.


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