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Saturday, 4 May 2013

A "unifying" moment of radio silence for Jean-François Copé

If you turn on your radio on a Sunday morning in France and tune in to Europe 1 at 10 o'clock, then you'll be able to hear arguably one of the country's most experienced and perhaps political journalists, Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, grilling his guests on "Le Grand Rendez-vous".

Elkabbach is no stranger to many French, having held several high profile posts for television and radio, including president of France Télévisions (December 1993 - June 1996), president of the parliamentary TV channel Public Sénat (December 1999 - April 2009) and directeur général (April 2005) and later president (until June 2008) of the radio station for which he still works, Europe 1.

"Le Grand Rendez-vous" is a sort of "joint venture" if you like, between Europe 1, the popular national daily Aujourd'hui en France, the all-news channel i>Télé and TV5 Monde.

A fellow journalist from each of the three partners sits alongside Elkabbach, but there's no doubting who's in charge.

The programme lasts just one hour, during which the guest - usually a politician (but not always) - goes head-to-head (or should that be the other wary round?) with Elkabbach on the most pressing matters of the day or the past week.

The list of recent guests includes, politicians Michel Sapin, François Fillon and Pierre Moscovici, trade unionist leader Laurent Berger, former CEO of EADS Louis Gallois and Cardinal André Vingt-Trois.

As the whole thing is filmed and available live on the Net, most guests - especially the politicians, keen to preen and aware of the importance of image - have taken to inviting along people of their choice to sit in the audience.

Space is limited by the size of the studio of course, but some politicians cannot resist a show of strength.

Such was the case recently with Jean-François Copé, the president of the centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP).

Jean-François Copé (screenshot from Europe 1's "Le Grand Rendez-vous")

You might remember, he was "elected" to that position after the party's internal voting shenanigans last year and the ensuing stalemate with former prime minister François Fillon.

Events have moved on since then. The two men have buried the proverbial hatchet - although it's not sure where - the party split has been "healed" and there are vice-presidents galore from both camps.

And that "bonhomie" among party members was something the ever media-savvy Copé was eager to stress during his one hour with Elkabbach.

Except the seasoned journalist wasn't letting Copé off the hook so easily and at one point, after listening to "unity...yadda, yadda, yadda", "cooperation...yadda, yadda, yadda" and "agreement...yadda, yadda, yadda" for more than long enough, Elkabbach challenged his guest.

He pointed out that all 22 of the party members Copé had invited to sit in the audience while being interviewed, were from his "clan": they had all supported him before, during and after the leadership voting debacle.

Rattling of a list of names of those present, Elkabbach asked, "But where are the (so-called) Fillonists? There's not a single one here," he said, finger raised.

"There's no sign of (Valérie) Pécresse, (Éric) Ciotti not even - excuse me for saying this - François come?" continued Elkabbach.

"What a silence," he exclaimed as Copé took more than a moment to summon his response.

It was a classic...a moment when a usually smug Copé floundered, discovering that he had been well and truly outmanoeuvred

Take a look - at the accompanying video from five minutes and 12 seconds as Copé quite rightly gets his come-uppance.

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