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Friday, 23 August 2013

Another week in French politics with la rentrée, crystal balls and, of course, Manuel Valls

Government ministers returned to work this week refreshed from their short break and intent on cracking on with the business of running the 2025.

They all sat down and decided to cope with the problems currently facing France by gazing into their collective crystal ball to predict the rosiest of futures with "full employment, plenty of cheap housing, a new Industrial Revolution and Police 3.0."

Do what?

Yes apparently "anyone who wants a job will be able to get one," according to the finance minister Pierre Moscovici. And the country will have "regained its fiscal sovereignty."

Oh yes. And France will be officially renamed "Cloud Cuckoo Land".

Eat your heart out, Émile Coué!

Back to reality though and the week started off with a wannabe prime minister, Claude Bartolone, and a wannabe president Arnaud Montebourg (presumably one of the architects of that 2025 Industrial Revolution) holding hands (metaphorically speaking, you understand) unified for la Fête de la Rose de Frangy-en-Bresse.

It was all very casual. A no-tie, open-collar, friendly (well, as close as it gets in politics) sort of affair to show how 'unified" they both were; the president of the National Assembly and
the minister of industrial renewal.

Smile for the camera guys!

Over at the centre-right UMP (renamed until further notice Union pour un mouvement pauvre), another wannabe leader was staking his claim.

Laurent Wauquiez his own footsteps (or the tradition of the former Socialist president François Mitterrand who used to make an annual ascent of the roche de Solutré) by taking his once-a-year hike up mont Mézenc.

What is it with politicians and hills?

Surrounded by his personal fan club from the like-minded "droite sociale",  Wauquiez was apparently showing what a free-thinking, independent kind of politician he was...well at least until it becomes necessary to foster alliances with the forces of darkness from another part of the UMP.

Meanwhile yet another wannabe - prime minister, president and master of the universe - and darling of the right, the interior minister Manuel Valls, "shocked" some in his own (Socialist - and you might need to be reminded of that now and then) party with statements that seemed...well, a little off message.

France faces two major challenges in ensuring how people here can all live together happily, according to the interior minister.

Number One - the birth rate among those of African origin in France would "force a rethink of our immigration policy and the issue of family reunification would have to be reviewed."

And Number Two - to show that "Islam was compatible with democracy."


"Non, mais allô quoi?" to quote one of the great French thinkers of our time.

Weren't those exactly the sort of remarks Jean-Luc Mélenchon had been talking about during his interview with le Journal du Dimanche when he said, "Valls had been contaminated by the (thinking of the far-right) Front National"?

All right, so as the self-appointed leader (or at least one of them) of one of France's far-left parties, Mélenchon might get a heck of a kick out of putting the proverbial boot into his former Socialist party colleagues, but he has a point, hasn't he?

While on the subject of Valls - after all there was, and is, no getting away from him - the interior minister was quick to react to the latest deaths in Marseille, a city that has "long grappled with high crime rates that have increasingly become more violent over the years."

It was during Valls' appearance on BFM TV on Tuesday morning to explain what approach the government would be taking in Marseille, that"real" prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, got wind that the "wannabe" one (Valls) would be heading off to the southern French city to "sort things out" (paraphrasing).

Manuel Valls (screenshot BFMTV August 20, 2013)

Ayrault, always a man of action, reacted promptly, putting Valls firmly in his place and swooping on Marseille himself surrounded by five - yes count them - ministers: Valls (that'll learn yer sonny), Christine Taubira (justice), Marisol Touraine (social affairs), Cécile Duflot (housing) and Marie-Arlette Carlotti (junior minister for the disabled and from Marseille herself).

And just to show how much in charge he was, Ayrault annouced exactly what Valls had been planning to say - measures to beef up of the police presence in the city.

Way to go, M Ayrault!

Finally - skipping over the first cabinet meeting and the proposed reform of the status of the auto-entrepreneur, the handling of which seems to epitomise the government's clarity and coherence on the subject, no political rentrée would be complete without yet another failed attempt at a comeback by the country's first lady of politics.

In her capacity as president of the region Poitou-Charentes, Ségolène Royal had planned a get-together lunch and a press conference for other Socialist party regional presidents as a "prelude" to the traditional annual meeting of party activists the last weekend of August in the town of La Rochelle.

Only it has been cancelled  because of lack of interest or, as Royal tweeted, "postponed by several days to prepare for the September 11 meeting at the Matignon (the prime minister's official residence)."

La Rochelle, you might remember, was the scene of Royal's ignominious defeat to fellow party member Olivier Falorni in last year's parliamentary elections.

And that, dear reader, is a round up of some of this week's political stories making the news here in France.

Bon week-end.

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