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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Cécile Duflot has a 1999 Renault Twingo - so what! The "moralisation" of French politics

It's all the rage at the moment

Or perhaps that should be everyone in political circles is raging about it - which isn't necessarily the same thing.

The decision by the French president, François Hollande, for politicians to come clean to the public by declaring how much they're worth.

Government ministers will set the ball rolling in a campaign which has been dubbed the "moralisation of politics".

They have until April 15 to tell us all exactly how much they're worth and whether they pay wealth tax.

And of course this being France, Hollande is also proposing to introduce a new law which would force all elected officials to disclose publicly their individual wealth and family assets, while coming down harder on those who lie or fail to tell the complete truth.

It's all something of a typical knee-jerk reaction to the tax evasion scandal surrounding former budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac.

The junior minister in charge of disabled people, Marie-Arlette Carlotti, was the first to list her assets, when she published them on her blog. Apartments, house, life insurance policies, bank accounts and vehicles - fascinating stuff.

Likewise for housing minister, Cécile Duflot, where we learn that among other things, she has a 1999 Renault Twingo!

Carlotti and Duflot have also been joined by some members of the opposition centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) eager perhaps to show us all that...while not exactly poor, at least how "normal" (and like the rest of us) they really are.

Former prime minister François Fillon, although not wholeheartedly in favour of a need for a law, appeared on prime time television news on Monday to reveal that he wasn't rich enough to pay wealth tax.

"I own a house in the Sarthe (his former constituency) which I bought with a mortgage 20 years ago for €440,000. Today it's worth around €650,000," he told France 2's anchor David Pujadas.

There's less than €100,000 on my savings account and I have two cars, both of which are older than 10 years," he added, (conveniently) forgetting to make any mention of the shares he has in a private consultancy.

Another former minister Laurent Wauquiez also "went public", insisting that the Cahuzac affair proved there was a real need for transparency to show the French that they could trust their elected representatives.

"We're elected to defend the public interest," he said in an interview with Le Journal du dimanche.

"And we shouldn't be in politics to 'make money'."

The UMP party president, Jean-François Copé, is among those who say they won't be disclosing their wealth publicly - unless it's made law.

For him, the idea is pure "voyeurism" and "hypocrisy" as well as "an attempt by François Hollande to create a smoke screen around the fact that one of his ministers committed fraud and then lied about it."

Of course Copé has a point. Cahuzac's behaviour in the run-up to his admission - when he looked journalists and fellow politicians "straight in the eye" and swore that he had no secret bank accounts abroad - is evidence that if someone is going to lie in order to cover up, then creating a law will probably not stop them.

Plus there's already a wealth (ouch) of laws on the books to deal with those who are caught.

Is yet another one really necessary?

And where is the line to be drawn.

If members of government and perhaps all politicians are required to disclose their assets, then why not all elected officials and those who influence policy and public opinion at every level: union leaders, journalists, the judiciary?

Finally of course there's the implication that if you're unwilling to disclose your personal wealth, you must have something to hide, and anybody out there really interested in the fact that Cécile Duflot drives a 1999 Renault Twingo?

Time for a spot of music maybe.

What would you like? "If I were a rich man" from "Fiddler on the roof" perhaps.

Or Abba's "Money, money, money"?

Oh all right then - both.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do love Abba, thanks for putting up this link.
I also love the Renault Twingo, it was the first car I bought when I moved to France a decade ago. But I sold it two years ago to buy myself a restored 2CV... and I just love driving around the countryside in that car, going to the market in Bergerac.


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