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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Your week in French politics - from a wannabe gun-toting UMP senator to Roma-bashing Manuel Valls

This week's look back at what has been happening in the marvellous world of French politics begins with a little light relief...um...of sorts.

It was supposedly a "slip of the tongue" (or was it?) provided by the  youngest member of the French parliament, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.

The 23-year-old far-right Front National députée who in true "Dynasty"  - click on the link if you're already in need of a musical interlude - fashion (she's the granddaughter of Jean-Marie and niece of Marine) looks set for a long political career, was one of the guests invited to debate on France 2's "Mots croisés".

In wanting to respond to the claims by a fellow guest, a Socialist party (PS) member of the Senate André Vallini that (don't laugh) the idea of a "naïve Left reliant on a culture of excuses was over", Maréchal-Le Pen showed her youth - and perhaps her past television viewing habits.

Rather than suggesting Vallini was using the much-employed and beloved "Méthode Coué" (autosuggestion), Maréchal-Le Pen gaffed and referred to a former television "comedy/entertainment" programme "La Méthode Cauet".

Ah well. Youth.



Maybe Maréchal-Le Pen needs to take a lesson or two in the art of communication from Eric Doligé, a senator for the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP).

Never heard of him? Never mind. Outside of the département of Loiret, for which he is senator, not many have probably.

Doligé clearly belongs to the traditional school of French politics which believes holding several elected offices at the same time is...well, perfectly acceptable.

He's a Conseiller général to the Canton de Meung-sur-Loire (where he just happened to be mayor from 1983 until 2011). It's a position he has held since 1985. He's also president of the Conseil général du Loiret (since 1994) and a senator of course. Somewhere along the way, he also manages to be a Chef d'entreprise. Talented man.

Anyway, the 70-year-old professional collector of political positions has had enough of the current lot in government. And he said as much in the most eloquent fashion as UMP parliamentarians from both houses got together for a pow-wow on Tuesday.

"I have to say that I have a killer instinct right now. I'm like most people, I cannot stand Hollande and his band," he said as he outlined how he thought government ministers were destroying the areas for which they had responsibility.

"Rather than shooting at each other, we should be taking aim at those running the country and I have a list of 40 I would like to shoot...they're all in the government."

Just to add to the "fun" a fellow UMP senator and another collector of political positions, Jean-Claude Gaudin (the current mayor of Marseille and seeking a fourth term in next year's municipal elections) chipped in with, "I can provide the Kalashnikovs!"

Such a sense of humour these gentlemen from the UMP.

Moving swiftly along and there was no getting away from (when is there ever?) the interior minister Manuel Valls this week.

First up he was laying in to Maréchal-Le Pen's aunt and leader of the FN, Marine Le Pen, saying that her "level of geopolitical analysis was zero".

That was his direct (and probably not unfounded) response to her comments that Bashar al-Assad was the "least worst option" for Syria and that France had become nothing more than "a harlot" with a government "supporting Islamic fundamentalism".

More tough talk from Valls a couple of days later when he appeared to go into FN mode as he followed in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors at the interior ministry, Claude Guéant and Brice Hortefeux, by displaying less-than brotherly love for (certain) foreigners in France.

Yes, he was on his favourite Roma-bashing bandwagon, saying that "very few of them would ever be able to integrate into French society" and that he would continue with the policy of dismantling their camps and expelling them.

With the European Commission (Romania and Bulgaria - the countries to which Valls wants to "send back" the Roma are both due to enter the European Union's Schengen area of borderless travel next year, although the decision could be delayed yet again) human rights groups and some within the PS and the Greens looking on in horror, it was left to the government's spokesperson, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, to come up with an official reaction to Valls' comments.

And she did herself proud, saying Valls had the government's backing because its policy on the matter was to act with "firmness and humanity."

OK. That's all right then. Looks as though the Socialist party is determined to redefine "humanity".

As for the country's president, François Hollande. Well he began the week in New York.

François Hollande with Hassan Rohani (screenshot M6 news) and on CNN (screenshot from CNN video)

While he didn't really say anything he hadn't already said before, during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Hollande did find time to meet and greet his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

Hey there was even that significant "smile for the camera" moment as the two men posed and shook hands.

While in New York, Hollande couldn't pass up the opportunity of an interview with CNN's redoubtable Christiane Amanpour.

Yes it was pre-arranged and yes, it gave Hollande the rare opportunity to say nothing new once again.  But it also allowed to show his command of English by answering questions in French.

And here's the thing. Hollande's replies were dubbed into English by...a woman.

What a strange editorial decision.



And finally "music" - although strictly speaking you could question that - from France's former first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

She was among a host of French singers invited to perform during a concert on Wednesday to raise funds for research into Alzheimer's.

But just moments after Bruni struck the first chords of her 2003 hit "Quelqu'un m'a dit" she had a momentary power failure as she forgot the words.

Maybe it was down to the bum notes in the opening sequence or, as she said, "that she was moved".

Still, she gave it a second bash and was soon strumming away, her husky voice no doubt delighting those present.

Enjoy the clip of the moment and your weekend.

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