Patrick Marnham

A bad week for ‘President Normal’ just got worse

A bad week for ‘President Normal’ just got worse
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So she’s been fired! We now know why Valérie Trierweiler, the established companion of the president of the republic is currently in hospital suffering from ‘a severe case of the blues’. That must surely be the clear implication of President Hollande’s refusal at his New Year’s press conference to confirm that Valérie is still First Lady of France.

This afternoon the most powerful man in France emerged from between the marble pillars and gorgeous tapestries of the Élysée Palace, a dapper little figure in a blue suit, wearing rimless designer specs and dyed brown hair.  His audience included the entire government and an international press corps and spoke for 45 minutes with his customary lack of fire about the economy, Europe, French troops in Africa and the need for social harmony. He also committed his government to the legalisation of medically-assisted suicide.

But the first question was inevitably about the president’s private life.  Did he have anything to say to France and the World, following the allegations in Closer magazine that he had been sharing his breakfast croissants with a lovely actress in a nearby pied a terre?  His answer was, in summary ‘I understand why you asked that question… In the course of our lives we all pass through difficult times and Valerie and I are now in this situation.  But private life must remain private and I will make no further comment today. I will have more to say at a later date’. So that’s it.  She’s toast.

Twenty years ago President Mitterrand was still employing a squad of security police to conceal the existence of his secret lovechild, Mazarine. Ten years ago President Chirac was still cruising around Paris in his limo being dropped off at various addresses by his chauffeur, the faithful Jean-Claude, who nicknamed him ‘Monsieur Ten Minutes Maximum (including the shower)’. Five years ago President Sarkozy, one year after being elected, had survived divorcing his wife (who had complained to the police about physical mistreatment), and subsequent re-marriage with an Italian folk singer. None of them was in the slightest bit perturbed in their public duties by any of this.

So how has President Hollande managed to mishandle affairs to such an extent in the land of ‘Ooh la la!’? That traditional values still flourish in this country is confirmed by this week’s poll showing that 77 per cent of the French don’t give a damn where the president goes to on the back of his motor scooter. Ils s’en foutent complètement. But 94% are showing signs of what Le Monde calls ‘collective depression’ and 67%, when asked to describe the president in one word, have chosen ‘worrying’.

For the man who campaigned on the slogan of ‘a normal’ presidency and who only six months ago announced the establishment of a new ‘Commission for the Moralisation of Political Life’, it has been a catastrophic week.