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Friday, 24 August 2007

Orange sees red and becomes a People

He’s back from his hols and raring to go. There again you would be hard pushed to know that he had ever been away- given the domestic media coverage over the past couple of weeks..

France’s sixth president of the Fifth Republic has returned from his highly hyped 10 days in the good old U.S. of A looking just as Orange as when he left. Ever conscious of the purse strings, he didn’t have to dig deep into his own pockets to cover the costs – a mere €23,000 yes that’s right TWENTY THREE THOUSAND EUROS – a week.

Nor did the French taxpayer have to cough up the lucre. He’s a canny (or whatever the Gaul equivalent might be) bloke is our Nic. He simply got the Enigmatic One – aka his wife - to organise everything. And she in turn she persuaded her good buddy - who as a big cheese at the fashion house Prada just happens to rolling in it - to pick up the tab.

Good to have friends in high places. Doubtless it will work both ways at some point but that’s something to be delved into at a later date.

So back home Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa (to give HIM his full name this time around) got straight back to work and hauled in both the Justice Minister and the Interior Minister to plan a series of new measures to deal with repeat child sex offenders.

It was a swift and much-praised reaction to a scandal the previous weekend when a recently released paedophile had abducted and abused a five-year-old. It turned out the 61-year old man had barely been out of prison a month after serving 18 years of a 27-year sentence for similar offences. And just to make the whole sad story worse and have the tabloids* drooling, he had been prescribed Viagra by prison doctors.

To give him his due Sarkozy saw red and didn’t hang around in introducing tough reforms. HMV has spoken. Child sex offenders will have to complete their full sentence. No parole. And even then they may not be freed. Those still seen as a threat to society could be detained in a secure hospital for paedophiles and if allowed to leave at some point, they would be tagged or may even be chemically castrated! No bleeding-hearted liberalism being entertained here.

Such measures will doubtless be hugely popular – Sarkozy continues to ride high in the all the polls. But at the same time it signals a distinct switch in political thinking about how to deal with social problems.

Immigration is also high on Sarkozy’s list of clean-up jobs – and especially illegal immigrants or those here “sans papiers”.

Pressure groups have accused the government of stepping up the campaign, and using bullyboy methods to send illegal immigrants “back where they belong”.

The recent case of a Chechen-Russian couple, whose asylum claim had been rejected, illustrates what many opponents see as the authorities intolerance and mishandling of often very delicate situations.

During a police raid on their apartment, the couple’s 12-year-old son jumped out of the window in an attempt to escape. The injuries he sustained left him in a coma for almost a week and the whole family has now been allowed to stay in France while he goes through a long period of rehabilitation.

While pressure groups say unnecessary force was used to gain entry, the police union, in a somewhat twisted turn in the story, say several of their officers have been traumatised by what happened and are currently getting psychological support.

While the argument over the “fairness” of police working conditions rumbles on, the “problem” of how to deal with illegal immigrants is just as unlikely to be resolved here in France as it is in the rest of Europe. With one of his closest cronies as head honcho at the ministry, Sarkozy has already clearly indicated that it’s going to be a priority during his five-year tenure.

And as France reflects on whether it can stand the pace of the first 100 days, that much esteemed weekly magazine, and bastion of good taste and great journalism, Paris Match, has officially made PermatanMan a “People”.

The “People” – yes that’s right always in the plural, whether referring to several individuals or just one – here in France is the new way of saying “celebrity”. As you would expect they grace the pages of the country’s glossies and unwillingly or not, are the very stuff of gossip columns.

Anyway the latest issue of Paris Match carries pictures of Nicolas Sarkozy on holiday. You know - the sort of thing we all really want to see according to the same magazine, which not so long ago decided “Segolene Royal on the beach” was justifiably long-lens material.

Now French politicians have not traditionally been “A” listers or any other letter come to that. They have been newsworthy for sure – but rather for policies and the occasional fraud or tax scandal, but never really Posh ‘n Becks type celebs.

Those days are over it seems. Politicians can now also be counted among the “People” or those famous for being famous according to the editors at PM. At least that was their reasoning behind airbrushing the love handles out of the holiday snaps of said NS while he was in the States.

Hallelujah. In the words of the Beautiful South “The world is turning Disney and there’s nothing we can do.” Or maybe it is just Orange

*Tabloids – Poetic licence really as France being such a cultured country doesn’t have a gutter press as such – and certainly not on the same scale as Blighty.
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