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Friday, 1 June 2012

Xavier Bertrand's slip of the tongue "in defence" of Fat Cat salaries

Ah what would the world be without the occasional political gaffe?

The previous centre-right led Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) government was full of ministers capable of delivering a howler or two.

Former justice minister Rachida Dati proved herself to be adept at unintentional sexual references when speaking of "oral sex" ("fellation") rather than "inflation" during an interview on foreign investment funds.

Her slip up made the subject so much more...er...interesting.

And on another occasion she managed to introduce "dildo" ("gode") rather than "code" (of conduct) into an interview about  laicity and Islam.

Dati wasn't alone of course. There was also Frédéric Lefebvre the (wait for it) junior minister for trade, small and medium enterprises, tourism, services, liberal professions and consumption (where was the kitchen sink?) who showed his literary prowess when asked which classic French work had made the biggest impact on him.

Sadly Lefebvre came up with the ready-to-wear clothes company "Zadig ET Voltaire" rather than "Zadig BY Voltaire.

And let's not forget Nadine Morano (who could?) when...well, she said just about anything that came into her mind or struck her fancy but perhaps the most memorable was  confusing "Renaud" the singer and "Renault" the car manufacturer.

Mary Hopkins time:

                        "Those were the days my friend,
                        We thought they'd never end."

The new government hasn't quite got into its stride yet, but that doesn't matter.

The new opposition - or the former government if you like - is proving itself to be well up to the job of maintaining a strangehold on the art of delivering a lapsus linguae.

More on than in a moment.

First some background.

The recently-elected French president, François Hollande, is on something of an exemplary cost-cutting exercise.

One of his first decisions was to reduce ministers' pay by around a third.

It was a campaign promise and one he "made good on" as soon as the new 34-strong government was named.

Next up is the pledge to cap the salaries given to the big cheeses of companies which are state-controlled or, in the case of nuclear power plant builder Areva or utility giant EDF, it still has a majority stake.

The government is apparently still working out the fine print but is expected to announce in mid-June that top company executives' pay will be limited to 20 times that of the lowest paid worker.

An end, in part, to the so-called fat cat syndrome in companies such as EDF (84 state-owned) where CEO Henri Proglio reportedly earned a miserly €1.6 million in 2011.

Of course some might try to argue that setting a "maximum salary" will make it difficult for state-owned companies to attract top talent and it'll be nigh on impossible to impose on the private sector.

But few could argue against the injustice that exists between some top earners and those at the opposite end of the scale.

Well that's unless you happen to be a Xavier Bertrand, the former minister for labour, social affairs and solidarity in the last government under prime minister François Fillon.

Xavier Bertrand (screenshot Europe 1 interview)

Bertrand was the invited guest on Europe 1 radio on Thursday morning and perhaps revealed a little more than he intended - albeit by means of a slip-of-the-tongue - about the thinking behind the previous government's attitude.

"I've always been in favour of excessive salaries (for top executives) " he told journalist Jean-Pierre Elkabbach.

"I said as much when I was a member of the previous government and I'm not going to change my mind now."

Elkabbach, seasoned journalist that he is, interrupted just to make sure he had heard correctly and in so doing allowed Bertrand to correct his mistake.

"Always in favour of excessive salaries?" questioned Elkabbach.

"Ah certainly not," replied Bertrand calmly, realising his error.

"I've always been in favour of limiting excesses (of payment)," he said.

"Whether it's in a period of crisis or not, it's always necessary to set a good example."

Ah, it's so good to hear and see that some things about the UMP haven't changed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lefebvre's reference to Zadig & Voltaire (a kind of upmarket C&A really) was not so much a slip of the tongue as a proof that this "minister" lacked culture and education. And it turns out he's now campaigning for the parliamentary elections for the seat "representing the French population in North America", or closer to the truth, has been for the past months, while still a minister, travelling all over the States and Canada on the back of French taxpayers!

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