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Friday, 28 September 2012

Friday's French Music break - Michael Jackson, "Je ne veux pas la fin de nous"

Yep, you read correctly. Michael Jackson singing in French - a version of his 1987 duet with Siedah Garrett of "I just can't stop loving you".

Michael Jackson (screenshot "I just can't stop loving you" Live Bucharest Dangerous Tour 1992 YouTube video)

All right, it might not exactly be the very best of Jackson, but the original was the first of five consecutive tracks taken from the album "Bad" to make it to the top of the Billboard 100 - at a time when that sort of thing still mattered.

Can it really be (gulp) 25 years since the release of the album "Bad" from which the duet was taken?

Indeed it is, because it has been repackaged and re-released as "Bad 25" to celebrate the 25th anniversary of first hitting the shelves

"Je ne veux pas la fin de nous" is featured as one of the bonus tracks in the triple-CD and DVD set which was released here in France on September 17.

And for those who really, really like the song and speak Spanish, there's also a version in that language, "Todo mi amor eres tu".

Of course the whole "Bad 25" album is probably just another means by which Sony Music can capitalise on Jackson's legacy and the Los Angeles Times pop music critic Randall Roberts provides a pretty frank review of just what fans will get for their money.

For the truly diehard fan - and there are certainly plenty of them - there's also a documentary directed by Spike Lee on the making of the original album.

It screened outside of competition at the Venice film festival at the beginning of September, received its North American premiere at the Toronto international film festival a fortnight later and will hit the small screen - in the States - on November 22.

No word yet for French fans as to when it might air here.

OK. Enough. You can click on the links provided for source material and to find out more about the album - original and re-release - and the film.

For now, here's a rather "iffy" YouTube footage compilation to accompany the recording of "Je ne veux pas la fin de nous".

Thursday, 27 September 2012

French president 2017 - Bill Clinton?

It might seem like something of a long shot, but apparently former US president Bill Clinton is - or rather could make himself - eligible to run for the Élysée palace.

Bill Clinton (screenshot from CNN interview)
Clinton was being interviewed by CNN's Piers Morgan on Tuesday who rather lightheartedly put to the former US president, an invitation to run as prime minister of the United Kingdom at some point in the future.

The 66-year-old Clinton smiled in response and said there were only two countries for which he could be eligible to run for the leadership position; Ireland and France.

And here's his explanation of how he could at a push, put the wind up the likes of François Hollande, François Fillon, Marine Le Pen and others.

Well, it's "possible" at a stretch - a very long stretch mind you.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Tree hugging French medium predicts the end of the world

Summer is officially over and autumn is getting into its stride, which means it's countdown time.

Yes that's a reference to the end of the world - there'll doubtless be many of them in subsequent weeks - scheduled for December 21...or is it December 23?

Just to show how seriously some people treat the imminent apocalypse here's a report from France O -  a channel which admittedly so few people in France actually watch.

The clip was first broadcast in May, but retransmitted recently and it features Françoise, a former German teacher.

Françoise, the tree-hugging medium (screenshot from France O television)
Although it's uncertain what - if anything - her past profession has to do with her current beliefs and practices, that's how she's described in the report.

Anyway, Françoise very much has own "apocalyptic theory" which is supported, as far as she's concerned, by her own particular brand of insider knowledge.

And that's because she's able to talk to trees.

Hugging that tree (screenshot from France O television)

Not only that, she receives messages through them from, what she refers to as, her "masters" and is - wait for it - able to interpret them in front of the cameras, predicting the inevitable floods and devastation.

Oh yes, she's also a medium (of course) and the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene.

Now of course this might not stand up to even the least rigorous scientific theory and it certainly doesn't counter the body of contradictory "proof" available in many a kitchen cupboard in which you'll likely be able to find a packet of pasta good for use until 2014.

But at least she seems happy - if perhaps more a little out of her tree.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Go on, admit you made a mistake

It's not often we hear anyone admit they made a mistake, is it? And similarly it's probably just as seldom any of us own up to being in the wrong or having failed.

Admitting to either is...well, just not "cool" is it?

More than that it's downright embarrassing and defines us as ........GASP.....losers.

Everyday life usually teaches us to cover up our errors in so far as we can.

On the Net - well there's the security of hiding behind the anonymity of the keyboard which encourages far too many of us to say things we (hopefully) ordinarily wouldn't say face-to-face, refusing to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe sometimes we might be wrong, let alone apologise.

In politics - forget it. "Attack really is the best means of defence".  And even if they know their policies are going belly up, or they've failed to carry out electoral promises, politicians simply change their tune reinventing the "truth" to fit the circumstances.

All right so occasionally there's a "mea culpa" such as former French president Nicolas Sarkozy at the beginning of his failed re-election campaign (says it all, doesn't it) or more recently the UK's deputy prime minister (what's that?) Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg "apologising" ad nauseam at the party's conference.

But they're the exceptions rather than the rule.

And in business of course it's the complete antithesis of a company's raison d'être - to be successful.

But here's something of a (not-so) novel idea. We can all learn from our mistakes.

That's the premise behind a one-day conference being held in Paris on Tuesday,

All right so the symposium is aimed at what the organisers Failcon, say are "technology entrepreneurs, investors, developers and designers" and is supposed to encourage  participants to "stop being afraid of failure and start embracing it."

That's surely more than spurious self-motivational claptrap and something from which we could all benefit by applying it what ever we do in all aspects of our lives.

So go on - admit your mistakes, own up to having failed, or apologise for being at fault...unless of course - like me - you're perfect.

Sarkozy se justifie du "casse toi pauvre con" et... par lemondefr

Monday, 24 September 2012

Zlatan Ibrahimović - PSG's "homeless" millionaire striker

As you go about your business this week, spare a thought for Zlatan Ibrahimović.

For those of you not so familiar with French football, he's the striker for whom the owners of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), the Qatar Investment Authority, splashed out a hefty €23 million in transfer fees to AC Milan back in July and whose take home pay is said to be as much as €14 million annually (although it has recently been revised downwards to a mere nine million euros)

Zlatan Ibrahimović (screenshot)

After a slow start, the investment is beginning to pay off - well at least in terms of his performance on the pitch.

The 30-year-old has scored seven goals so far in the team's first six games in Ligue 1 and his presence at the club has undoubtedly captured the imagination of many a fan and sent politicians and the media into a predictable frenzy.

But while he's initially living up to his starring role in the multi-million euro set-up, away from the pitch, not everything appears to be as it should.


Well it's simple really. With so much lovely take home pay, Ibrahimović hasn't actually got a home to which he can take it.

That's right - he's currently homeless - or in French "Sans domicile fixe".

Along with his other half, actress-model Helena Seger and their two young children, the Swedish international is apparently having problems finding a suitable pad in the French capital and instead is having to "slum" it at a place which is described in its own blurb as "representing the ultimate in French luxury and refinement".

Hardly what could be described as a half-way house, the prestigious Hôtel Le Bristol with the "cheapest" (inverted commas definitely needed) room costing €850 a night (download the PDF file of room rates for a real shock) and a continental breakfast setting back those with more money than sense €35, is the temporary abode for the family of four with PSG footing (ouch - sorry) the bill.

Of course for some extra much-needed publicity, Ibrahimović could call on the services of French telly's best-known estate agent Stéphane Plaza whose programme on M6 "Recherche appartement ou maison" regularly helps families find the "property of their dreams"

But for the moment "Ibracadabra" as he's often nicknamed, doesn't seem in too much of a hurry.

"Paris is a fantastic city with plenty of history," he said wisely at a recent press conference.

"And if things continue as they've started with my living in the hotel, I'll perhaps end up by buying it," he continued none too seriously when the subject of house hunting was broached.

"Or I'll live in the Eiffel Tower and arrive at training sessions by parachute."

Aha, the man seems to have just right sort of preposterous solution to his housing needs.

We wish him luck.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

French ministers and votes for foreigners - same hymn sheet but different notes

Ah cohesion and clarity.

Two words so often lacking in French government during Nicolas Sarkozy's time in office when ministers would regularly step out of line and speak their minds.

Sometimes it was refreshing such as Fadela Amara calling the proposal to verify the bloodlines of would-be immigrants with DNA tests "dégueulasse" or Rama Yade criticising the visit to France of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

On other occasions it was clearly an attempt to appeal to the very worst sectors of French society such as former interior minister Claude Guéant saying, "France didn't need foreign bricklayers or waiters" or that, "The number of Moslems in France caused problems".

In fact Guéant was a master of the most inappropriate and oftentimes racist of comments?

Thankfully though François Hollande is now president - just in case you hadn't realised...and you could probably be forgiven for not noticing.

So things are bound to be different.


Maybe not.

Hollande's 60 election promises (which is surely grounds in itself not to believe) included extending the right to vote in local elections to non-EU citizens resident in France.

On Monday a group of 75 Socialist parliamentarians - with more than an eye on the 2014 local elections - decided to call his bluff, urging Hollande and the government to get the process underway saying, "Proposals for were needed quickly because any reform of the law would require constitutional amendment and that would take time."

The reaction of interior minister Manuel Valls, the most liberal-minded and truly Socialist member of government, was one of which both his immediate predecessors in office, Guéant or Brice Hortefeux, would have been proud.

"Is this reform something which preoccupies the French at the moment and would it be a way of improving integration of foreigners into French society?" he asked.

"No," he emphatically told the French daily Le Monde.

"There isn't the same sort of drive for such a move as there would have been 30 years ago," he continued.

"The challenge today is how best French society can integrate foreigners."

Hang about. What exactly did Hollande say during his presidential campaign?

Well in his typically decisive manner, he "promised" a reform but of course left the timing rather open-ended as many, even within his own party, doubted (and still do) whether it was a "priority".

Such clarity: a promise made is one that's certainly not going to be kept.

Enter stage left housing minister Cécile Duflot, free from the constraints of having to toe the Socialist party line because she's in fact a member of  Europe Écologie – Les Verts or the Greens to the rest of us, and one of that party's two ministers in the government.

Don't ask why they've been included because the Socialist party could quite happily form a government without them. Still there was an electoral pact, and we all know how much politicians believe in sticking to promises made.

Cécile Duflot (screenshot from interview with France Inter)

"It's absolutely a necessity and yes, it was an election promise (made by François Hollande) and it'll be honoured next year," she said on France Inter radio.

"It remains an important element in helping integration into French society," she added, contradicting neatly what Valls had said.

"Reform is such an obvious given, that it's surprising it hasn't been done already."

Cécile Duflot par franceinter

So that's as clear as mud.

It remains government policy, but not just yet - and 2013 is still far enough away for plenty of other things to get in the way and banish the promise to the backburner.

(Don't) watch this space.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

UMP leadership battle - Xavier Bertrand "passes" and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet withdraws

It has been a fascinating (stifle those yawns) couple of days in the contest to find the next leader of the opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement,UMP).

First up Xavier Bertrand, announced at the weekend that he wouldn't be standing in the election scheduled for November.

And on Monday, the day before the deadline for nominations closed, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM) said she was pulling out of the race.

Yes, the contest to find the next leader of the party is down?

Bertrand's decision proved to be one noteworthy for its content, especially in saying something that wasn't about to happen. Remember Alain Juppé also used the same tactics recently to declare his non-participation.

But the former minister and one-time secretary general of the party also managed to spice things up a little by making journalists reach for their diaries in true François Hollande style (as humorist and impersonator Nicolas Canteloup keeps reminding listeners every morning on Europe 1 radio, the country's president now has an "agenda" or timetable) to note that he would be running in the party's primaries to choose its candidate in the 2017 presidential (of the country, that is) elections.

"I don't want to confuse matters and it's a coherent choice and a transparent one," he said.

Talk about forward planning (yes that's tautologous) in all its glorious splendour. It certainly earned something of a snorting response from Juppé who, when asked what he thought about Bertrand's announcement said with more than a hint of irony that, "Without doubt, some politicians never change. You just have to smile at their impatience given the situation the country finds itself in today."

So no "Bertrand for presidency of the UMP" even though he apparently has the necessary support of party activists to be able to stand.

Nominations close on Tuesday and potential candidates have to present almost 8,000 (or 7,924 to be precise) signatures to qualify for the first round.

And no NKM either because (handkerchieves at the ready) she reportedly hasn't managed to gather enough backing.

"I have been trying to collect sufficient signatures to be able to stand," she told Europe 1 radio.

"But at the last reckoning, I had gathered just under 7,000 so I'm withdrawing which is a shame as I had hoped to bring my ideas to help lead the party."

Neither Bertrand nor NKM has said who they'll be voting for in a race which is likely to figure  former prime minister François Fillon and current secretary general Jean-François Copé  in a slugfest, or as NKM described it, "an excess of testosterone which could render any real debate sterile."

So in true sloppy journalistic style - when there's nothing more to say about a story or the person reporting it cannot think of a way to wrap things up - who either of them will plump for in the end "remains to be seen" or "only time will tell".

The end - for now.

NKM : "Je n'aurai pas les parrainages nécessaires" par Europe1fr

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Incomplete mealtime faction - Breakfast at the Elysée on the day of Segger's return

A play in one - very short - act.

François is sitting at the table, dressed in his best Marks and Spencer dressing gown he bought in London while there recently for the Paralympics, humming to himself while leafing his way through Peter Antonioni and Sean Masaki Flynn's gripping 2007 paperback "Economics for dummies".

Enter Valérie, designer hairnet (???) holding curlers in place and sparks metaphorically flying from her eyes as she slams the door and stomps across the floor.

"Croissant darling?" asks François, putting the book down as he puckers up his lips in anticipation of delivering a morning smacker.

There's a grunt as Valérie ignores the proffered kiss.

"Coffee maybe?" he continues.

Another grunt as Valérie pulls out a chair and plonks herself down opposite him, glowering.

"Sugar?" he asks, adding four teaspoons to help sweeten the temperament of the (second) love of his life.


" there something wrong dear?"

The quiet is broken only by the sound of a spoon being stirred; the pace increasing, with François realising that at any moment now the volcano is about to erupt.

There's a sharp intake of breath followed by a shriek...


François rolls his eyes, feigning innocence and hoping against hopes that his beloved is not referring to what he most fears.

He says nothing.

"YOU'VE INVITED THAT WOMAN TO LUNCH," roars the country's first journalist.


"Valérie. Language please. Jean-Marc might hear," interrupts François. "You know he's in the next room waiting to be briefed."

"Oh I don't give a rat's arse about Jean-Marc," replies the woman who has a gift not only with the written, but also the spoken word.

"He's just as much of a wimp as you are. In fact that whole bloody government of dimwits you've cobbled together is  band of wusses. The only one who's got any balls worth speaking about is Martine, and you, YOU, were too frightened to include her."

The minister of jealousy was on her habitual early morning roll and François knew better than to try to interject.

"Cowards, spineless weaklings, chickens - that's what your government is," says the woman who had clearly been at the thesaurus again."

"I mean just look at the way the whole lot of you virtually pooped your pants when I sent the Tweet in support of that fool Farlorni," she continues.

"And here you go again sucking up to HER as though she has any sort of role to play in politics. And why? I'll tell you why...."

François sighs.

Just a few months in office has taught him this is the best way to deal with the daily diatribe he has to endure before getting on with the real business of trying to pretend to run the country.

He knows she can't help herself. She's a woman of character after all; one who has perfected the art of the poisoned pen 21st-century style, whose talents as a writer go largely ignored even though she has flair and style in huge measure. He muses in wonderment at her most recent œuvre, 'François Hollande President; 400 jours dans les coulisses d'une victoire'.

"Yes those photos were all right. But the accompanying text, written by Valérie's fair hand...well it was simply magnificent," he thinks to himself.

He can't for the life of him work out why it's not selling well and he understands her frustration.

"Ah yes," he thinks. "That's the problem with strong women. They constantly need challenges and are so easily riled when things don't go quite how they expect. If only she wouldn't take things so seriously or personally. Maybe she should stop trying to put on a false front of pursuing a profession and get on with some real first lady like charity work," he ponders.

"Oh, oh. I had better not even think those thoughts - very politically incorrect. I would be in for a real dressing down if she knew what was going through my mind..."

"...And then to top it all, the children turned around and said they didn't want to see me. You know who turned them against me, don't you?" Valérie takes a sip of her coffee.

"Well, don't you?" she pauses

 FRANçOIS!" roars the minster of jealousy.

"Yes dear?"

"You haven't been listening to a word I've been saying. That's just so typical. Well sod it. And sod HER."

And with that the country's first journalist stands up, flings her napkin on the table and storms out of the room, shouting as she goes, "And if you think I'm going to stick around for lunch with HER and the rest of them...think again."

BANG, as the door slams shut behind her.

"Er - you mind if I finish your croissant?" mumbles François into thin air.

Ségolène Royal (screenshot interview with BFM TV)

Yes, Wednesday saw the first meet and greet session at the Elysée palace between François Hollande and the presidents of all 26 regional councils, including of course the president of Poitou-Charente - a certain Ségolène Royal.

It was her first political appearance since being humiliated in the national assembly elections back in June and journalists were on hand of course to mark the occasion as a smiling Seggers wearing a "flashy orange jacket in a sea of grey" (as she was described) found herself again the centre of attention.

And Valérie Trierweiler? Well, she had excused herself from the proceedings.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Libération takes aim at Bernard Arnault with Sarkozy-type insults

There has been something of a furore in France this week - or as the media is so fond of saying "polemic" - surrounding a couple of headlines that have appeared in the national daily Libération.

The Left-leaning newspaper has been having fun with the news that France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, has applied for Belgian citizenship.

And it has been harking back to some of the most infamous phrases uttered by former president Nicolas Sarkozy to express its disgust at what it sees as a possible attempt by Arnault to avoid this country's inheritance tax laws.

Libération, Monday 10 September,  2012 (screenshot)

The reasons for Arnault's decision aren't exactly clear.

He has always paid taxes in France and says he'll continue to do so, claiming the application which was confirmed last weekend, was not a reaction to the proposed tax hike in France aimed at the super rich - of which he is the super-est.

You know the proposal: the one François Hollande conjured up from absolutely nowhere during his presidential campaign and is now grimly sticking to. Um. that interpretation probably deserves a Daily Telegraph link. Here you go.

There have also been suggestions that there are business reasons behind Arnault's application as well as a change in Belgium's laws next year which will apparently make it harder for anyone applying to be granted citizenship.

And then there's the inheritance tax issue of course - Arnault thinking about how to ensure that each of his five children gets as much of his money as possible when he pops his clogs.

Whatever the reasons, the media - national and international - has been largely leading with headlines that seem to suggest Arnault is running scared and there's about to be a mass exodus of the wealthy from France.

Libération though has been taking a different approach, and in the process incurring the wrath of the man himself who now says he'll sue the newspaper for insulting him publicly.

Oh dear. the poor man.

Er...hang on. Perhaps that needs to be put into some perspective.

How poor?

Well, according to Forbes magazine, the 63-year-old is not only France's richest person but also the wealthiest in Europe and the fourth in the world.

And as chairman (among other things) of the luxury goods company LVMH (Louis Vuitton-Moët Hennessy) and the fashion house Christian Dior, the appropriately described "business magnate" (merci Wikipedia) is worth a cool...hang on, get your calculators out...€31 billion or $41 billion  - a not insubstantial sum whichever way you look at it and an awful lot of zeros.

All hail champagne bubbles and high fashion heh?

So perhaps it's a little hard to have sympathy for someone who has made something of a PR blunder.

All right, Monday's edition of Libération which ran with a Sarkozy-type tribute of "Casse-toi riche con!" (thanks to The Guardian for providing a translation of "Get lost, rich jerk") might have been more than a little vulgar for those on the Right and many on the Left.

And perhaps Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the founders of the newspaper might have a few words to say about the rather "cheap" headline which harked back to Sarkozy's 2008 visit to the annual agricultural show in Paris and his reaction to a visitor who refused to shake his hand.
Libération, Tuesday 11 September, 2012 (screenshot)

Thankfully though Libération didn't take Arnault's threat of a legal suit lying down and went a step further for Tuesday's edition with another front page headline "Bernard, si tu reviens, j'annule tout".

That of course was a reference to the alleged text message Sarkozy (never) sent his then-wife Cécilia back in 2007 when she hot-footed it across the Atlantic to be with her now-husband (boy, this is some soap opera-type sentence huh?) Richard Attias.

Of course Libération could have a lot more fun with phrases borrowed from the not-so-distant presidential past. How about Sarkozy's sort-of 2007 campaign mantra - oops, slogan  - "Travailler plus pour gagner plus" or the "Ensemble tout devient possible"? They could surely work with a little imagination.

Or coming bang up-to-date and bringing Hollande into the equation, "Le changement, c'est maintenant"...hold the press "in two years time".

Suggestions on a Post-it please.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Are French viewers ready to see a same-sex couple appear on "Danse avec les Stars"?

Sticking by the principle that you can never have too much of a "good" thing, it's another post on the French television programme "Danse avec les Stars," - this country's version of the British show "Strictly Come Dancing".

You might have read here earlier this week that it's shortly due to hit French screens for a third season, and although that was a political special, this is about the real thing.

And apparently prime time TV isn't yet ready for two people of the same sex men to be shown dancing together.

That's surely the conclusion to be drawn from the news that the programme's producers have rejected the request by one of the celebrity candidates that he be allowed to dance with another man.

The show will of course feature a number of French singers and actors wanting to give their careers a boost, sporting personalities whose presence might seem more than a little incongruous with the apparent energetic elegance required  to hoof it across the dancefloor and the odd television "star" with the physique and co-ordination skills set to "amuse".

As per the format of the competition, they'll all be paired with a professional dancer and put through their paces every week before dancing live in front of an expert jury in the studio and millions more at home in front of the small screen.

It's entertainment - and very successful.

Emmanuel Moire
(screenshot "Adulte & Sexy" video)

One of the participants in the third season is singer and actor Emmanuel Moire.

For those of you not familiar with Moire, he first came to prominence in the 2005 musical "Le Roi de Soleil", playing - and singing of course - the part, with much longer hair, of Louis XIV.

Most recently he has been starring in the role of the Emcee in the French production of "Cabaret".

The 33-year-old has released two albums and had several hit singles over the years - although nothing along the lines in terms of success of another member of the original cast of "Le Roi de Soleil", Christophe Maé.

Oh yes - and he's openly gay.

No big thing, or at least it shouldn't be for his taking part in "Danse avec les Stars", except Moire reportedly asked programme makers whether he could be paired with a professional male dancer rather than a female one.

His request has apparently been turned down and so Moire will have to "make do" with a female partner unlike a participant in Austria during the country's equivalent 'Dancing Stars" (notice the subtle change in name?) in 2011.

Alfons Haider, who had himself presented the first three seasons of the show, was coupled with professional dancer Vadim Garbuzov, managing to take fourth place overall in spite of calls from the like of former racing driver Niki Lauda for the show to be cancelled because "two men dancing together was not something he wanted his children to see."

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Alain Juppé - the man who would not be (UMP) president - well not yet, anyway

Well,  candidates seem to be lining up in the race to become president of the opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP).

It's a post which of course became vacant ever since Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president (of France that is) in 2007 and the party decided not to replace him at the head of the UMP because he was considered morally to be the natural leader of the party as well.

With Sarkozy no longer around  - well he is, but he's retired, temporarily or otherwise, from active politics - morals seem to have gone out of the window and the position is up for grabs again, with many also viewing it as a launching pad for a 2017 presidential (of the country that is - gosh this is fast becoming confusing) bid.

The latest to enter the race is one of Sarkozy's former right hand men and so often described as his "ancienne plume" for his undoubted writing talents, Henri Guaino.

No, that's not an exhortation for a puerile play on words, tempting as it might be to the more Sun-inspired headline writers among us.

Instead it's a serious bid from a man who says he wants to stand in the name of Gaullism, thus presumably implying that the rest - and there are four of them so far - else other than Gaullism?

The 55-year-old, who has been an elected member of parliament for all of five minutes - oh all right then, since June 2012 - will now join (take a deep breath) François Fillon, Jean-François Copé, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Bruno Le Maire in an attempt to gain the support of 8,000 UMP members to be able to stand in the November elections.

Yes, in the name of democracy and transparency, these things take time in France, with party members voting in the first round on November 18 and, if necessary, in a second round head-to-head a week later on November 25.

Something to brighten up the short days and long nights of early autumn then.

One name missing from the list though is perhaps the man many feel could have made a difference in reuniting the different factions of the UMP without rocking the proverbial boat too much; a link with the recent past from Jacques Chirac through Sarkozy and the party's very first president when it was created from the various strands of the right and centre right in 2002 - Alain Juppé.

Alain Juppé (from Wikipedia)

All right, so Juppé is a man with a tarnished political reputation; a former prime minister under Chirac and a foreign minister under Sarkozy.

He also comes complete with the almost requisite (for French politics) conviction for mishandling public funds - which put his political career on hold for a couple of years but didn't stop him from making a comeback as mayor of Bordeaux and holding high office twice (albeit very briefly the first time around) while Sarkozy was president.

At 67, some might consider him a little long in the tooth for a job he has already held, but with experience and talent on his side, he could have been a plausible alternative for UMP members looking for a statesmanlike figure at the head of the party.

But no.

In that time-honoured tradition of many who have gone before him, Juppé followed the lead of the likes of Jacques Delors in 1994 when he decided not to run as the Socialist party's candidate for president the following year, or Jean-Louis Borloo last October when he went on national television to say he wouldn't be a candidate in this year's presidential elections, by also making also the headlines in announcing something he would not be doing - namely standing.

"A simple answer to a simple question - no," he replied when asked last week on national radio whether he would be a candidate for the post of UMP party president.

"I think it's important not to confuse roles by giving the impression that the party is choosing a candidate for the 2017 elections. That'll be decided by primaries I hope," he continued.

"The one thing I can do at the moment is to ensure that the competition between the candidates who have declared themselves so far is a fair and orderly one which doesn't create divisions."


Damage limitation and words that don't necessarily rule out Juppé's potential interest in Higher Office.

Spoken like a real - French - politician. One who has seen and done just about everything and could still play a prominant political role in France's future.

Bring back the Juppettes?

Candidat à l'UMP ? "Non", répond Juppé par Europe1fr

Monday, 3 September 2012

Incomplete dancing faction - "Danse avec les Stars" goes politicial

Hey folks, it's time to dig out your tutu, reach for your ballet slippers or pull on your tights, because the producers of TF1's "Danse avec les Stars", the French equivalent of that oh-so excellent (cough, splutter) British show "Strictly Come Dancing", have apparently finalised the line-up of the jury and competitors for next season's extravaganza.

Shy'm winner of "Danse avec les Stars" season 2 (screenshot from TF1 video)
Yes, the programme which has celebrities twirling and whirling, pirouetting and gyrating, while audiences for some reason trip the light fantastic in their millions from their armchairs will be back shortly for its third season.

And that supposedly serious weekly news magazine Nouvel Observateur has proudly divulged nine of the 10 contestants and they include singers Chimène Badi, Amel Bent, Lorie and Emmanuel Moire.

But hang about. Take a closer look at the source of Nouvel Obs' revelations and it turns out to be none other than the weekly celebrity gossip magazine, Voici.

Could something be awry here in the veracity of the "reporting"?

The truth will out, of course, and after some very basic shoe leather pavement pounding, your intrepid provider of the (sur)real story behind the headlines can disclose what TF1 actually has planned for viewers in a few weeks time.

Yes "Danse avec les stars" will be back on the screens and the format will be similar to that of the previous two seasons with "celebrities" looking to give a boost to their careers with a healthy dose of prime time TV exposure.

But - and here's where it gets interesting the competitors this time around will be different.
And how.

Because TF1 has decided to put politicians past and present (but mainly past) through their steps in a special "Shuffle avec les Stars" edition.

Yes, so now you're probably desperate to know who has already agreed to strut their stuff for our entertainment pleasure.


Here goes.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was apparently the first to agree.

Now Anne Sinclair-less, the former head of the International Monetary Fund has been looking around for some way of breaking the sex scandal cycle of news ever since that infamous Sofitel incident.

Plus apparently he has always had a bit of a thing about lycra tights.

Not surprisingly perhaps, producers have decided to team him up with a professional male partner.

Also appearing will be Ségolène Royal, who of course has absolutely nothing better to do at the moment.  In an interesting twist - yes the production team has really pulled out all the stops - Seggers will be paired, not with a professional dancer but with...Valérie Trierweiler.

It should be intriguing to see who tries to lead as the couple spin each other in all directions around the floor, stiletto (heels) at the ready.

Seggers-Trierweiler aren't the only "couple" appearing on the show though.

The leader of the far right Front National, Marine Le Pen, will be partnered by the man to whom she once not-so-jokingly offered honorary party membership, former interior minister  Claude Guéant.

Indeed, the first indication from the bookmakers is that Le Pen-Guéant could be favourites to win as they're so obviously already in step with one another.

Where you'll find Guéant, you would also expect to spot the man for whom he so eloquently wrote for so many years, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sure enough, the former president has also agreed to take part, seemingly bored of riding his tricycle around the Cap Nègre estate of his wife's family and desperate to do anything to keep himself occupied during his self-imposed political retirement.

One condition he apparently made before signing on the dotted line was that he would be allowed to wear platform shoes throughout the series.

Although she also announced on her Twitter account that she would be happy to dance, former minister Nadine Morano faces one huge challenge and the programme makers are not quite sure how to handle it. Apparently Morano wants to take part, but nobody is willing to dance with her.

And finally of course former justice minister and current member of the European parliament Rachida Dati has agreed to waft in and out of the show whenever the mood takes her accompanied by Chanel, Gucci, Prada and a whole host of other fashion houses

You'll notice that not all of the 10 slots have been filled, so there are still some surprises to come.

Sadly rumours that François Hollande might be able to find time in between his tanning sessions for fandango or two have been "normally" denied by one of his spokesmen who insisted that the "president had been flattered by the invitation," but also "thought he should look as though he were running the country even if he were not."

With several weeks still to go until the show hits the small screen, stay tuned to this post to discover who else will be hoofing it across the dancefloor.

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