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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

France's all-star international "Premier Drame"

It is, of course, currently France's Premier Drame: A soap opera or farce, if you like, of the very first order as far as the international media is concerned.

Francois Hollande's still (at the time of writing, he has yet to confirm or deny officially) "alleged" night time trysts with French actress Julie Gayet.

A story brought to you by that bastion of "investigative journalism", Closer magazine.

Remember, it's the weekly rag which also gave us the double page spreads of the Duchess of Cambridge's wobbly bits a couple of years ago.

The world's media awaits with the proverbial bated breath for Tuesday's annual news conference when Hollande is supposed to outline to some 500 or so accredited Elysée journalists, his plans for the economy, how to stimulate growth and tackle unemployment

Standing room only though and an atmosphere as "electric" as the conference in 2008  at which his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, answered questions, in his own manner, about his relationship with Carla Bruni.

Whatever Hollande says will likely be similarly under-reported internationally as the issue everyone it seems (outside of France) really wants him to address is the alleged affair with an actress very few had even heard of before last week.


Julie Gayet (screenshot from interview in 2012)

Who will ask THE question?

How will Hollande respond?

Seemingly endless column inches and broadcast time have been devoted to such burning issues as the perceived damage to the international image of Hollande - and by association, France - and the hospitalisation of his partner, Valérie Trierweiler.

Heck, France 2 television even asked Hollande's former partner (and mother of their four children) Ségolène Royal on its lunchtime news on Sunday for her opinions.

Seggers refused to respond.

If it had happened to someone holding high office in the United States or the United Kingdom, we are told, he (or she) would have been forced to explain (!!!), apologise and/or even resign.

But thankfully France is neither as priggish as the US nor as obsessed as the UK about its politicians' so-called sex scandals.

Yes, Hollande's opponents are having a field day. He's easy pickings and it's trash journalism at its very best or worst, depending on how you view these things.

President "Normal" is just a little too so for some tastes. For others he's just as hypocritical as many of his predecessors in office in invoking the "privacy principal".

But, let's face it, the allegations are hardly new news, now are they?

They're just in the public domain for the first time.

The rumour had been circulating for the best part of last year.

But Closer, with its trademark long lens approach to capturing photos that'll really tell the story, broke the news that, when picked up by the more respectable media took on a life of its own.

And the race to discover and cover absolutely every angle even led Le Monde to suggest that Closer had been tipped off by some of Sarkozy's cronies about Hollande's movements.

Hooray. Closer and Le Monde in the same sentence with the former helping out the latter to pull in a few extra punters.

Visions of "That'll learn you for criticising my Bling Bling celebrity approach to being president and insisting you would do things differently," perhaps from Sarkozy as he prepares his comeback.


Frankly Hollande's love life wasn't particularly interesting - and it still isn't.

France has seen its leading politicians survive far worse "scandals" of course.

Most recently there was Dominique Strauss-Kahn Sofitel suite 2806 affair (soon to be brought to us as a film starring Gérard Depardieu) a real story of misconduct by a French political heavyweight because it involved alleged rape.

But Jacques Chirac's "There have been women I have loved a lot," admission that he was something of a philanderer?

Or François Mitterrand's recognition of the existence of his daughter Mazarine, by his long-time mistress Anne Pingeot?

They were stories that came and went but hardly "rocked the office of president" (well maybe they created a few waves at the time) and didn't define Chirac and Mitterrand's time in office.

Certainly Hollande seems to have been less than prudent in his behaviour. And one could question his morals and more perhaps.

There are serious questions of safety at the idea of the head of state "scootering" around the streets of Paris in the middle of the night with only the bare minumum of security.

But heck. It's just an alleged affair, exposed by a celebrity magazine.

Here's hoping that the headlines after Tuesday's news conference concentrate on the things that really matter such as how Hollande proposes to relaunch the French economy and live up to his election campaign of cutting unemployment.

Fat chance!

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