Jean-François Copé, the leader of the opposition centre-right Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement) went on the "counter attack" on Monday.
He cancelled a morning interview with one of France's toughest radio and TV journalists, Jean-Jacques Bourdin and instead concentrated on his "solemn declaration" that he would deliver later in the day to answer allegations published in the weekly news magazine Le Point that smacked of political cronyism and financial corruption.
|Jean-François Copé delivers his "solemn declaration" (screenshot BFM TV)|
In its most recent issue, the magazine maintained that Copé had been partly responsible for "ruining the party's finances" during Nicolas Sarkozy's 2012 presidential campaign by channelling party funds to communications companies run by some of his (Copé's) friends.
Those companies, said Le Point, had charged inflated prices of 20 to 100 per cent more than the "going rate".
So how did Copé answer those accusations?
Well, he didn't.
Instead he offered up the sob story of a man who had become the victim of a "public lynching", a "man hunt" a "plot to discredit him" and of "journalism worthy of the Inquisition."
He would "sue Le Point" and in a wonderful turnaround from the man who was had been against the government's introduction of a law (after the so-called Cahuzac affair) requiring first ministers and then all parliamentarians to "declare all their assets", Copé now insisted that his party would "open all its accounts to public inspection if other parties agreed to do the same".
What's more he would introduce a parliamentary bill later this year to make it a legal requirement for all political parties.
Isn't there already a law on the books requiring French political parties to be accountable for their spending and funding especially if they qualify for state subsidies (ie: having some of their election expenses reimbursed)?
Yes there is.
So Copé's bill would be a pointless exercise.
Besides, the Socialist party is ready to call his bluff with its leader, Harlem Désir, saying on Tuesday that his party would be "more than happy to make its accounting details public."
"There's no need for a law," he said. "It's just a question of 'wanting to do it'," he continued.
"We're more than happy to make it easier for M Copé and the UMP to be more transparent by allowing journalists access to our detailed public accounts."