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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

French minister throws a party for his "Facebook friends"

It's a feel-good political story surely guaranteed to warm "les cockles" of any politically hardened cynic's heart brought to you directly from France.

Eric Woerth, France's budget minister - all right so it's not the most glamourous of government jobs by anybody's reckoning - is having a bash this evening.

And not just for anyone as you've probably worked out from the headline.

It's for 200 plus of his "closest" Facebook friends according to the national daily, Le Parisien, and confirmed by a spokeswoman from the ministry's press office on national radio on Tuesday afternoon.

To be precise, Woerth currently has 1,318 people who've signed up as his "friends" and 264 have accepted the invitation to the knees-up at the ministry - the first of its kind here in France.

In fact the story so fascinated one host of a national radio chat show, Laurent Ruquier, that during his show on Tuesday afternoon he actually rang the ministry to find out whether the story was a huge hoax or the truth.

The receptionist who answered his call had the inevitable "fit of the giggles" finding it hard to believe that she was actually live on air, but she was eventually convinced that the show's host was who he said he was and put Ruquier through to the minister's press office.

"Yes the story was true," a spokeswoman confirmed to listeners. "And the get together was being organised by the minister for this very evening."

Asked who would be footing the bill, the spokeswoman said it was all coming out of Woerth's own pocket and not that of the tax payer.

Perhaps that's not so surprising in these days of belt-tightening as although each ministry has an entertainment budget of €200,000 per annum, Woerth had more than a wee bit of diplomatic tongue-biting to do earlier this year when one of his colleagues (Rachida Dati at the justice ministry) admitted that she had already blown two thirds of her department's allowance in just the first three months of this year.

Woerth is not the only minister in the government expected to be present at the "soiree". The labour minister (and possible future prime minister) Xavier Bertrand is also expected to put in an appearance, as is the agriculture minister, Michel Barnier.

And on the glamour side, former Miss France and Miss Europe, Elodie Gossuin is also due to pitch up.

And all that to meet les "amis d'Eric."

Isn't politics wonderful - sometimes?

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