Monday, 18 June 2012

French tales of two sad women

How tough life is in politics. It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for politicians. Were it not for the fact that for every one that gets into the game, there must be a couple of hundred who would leap to take over from them if they could.

It was yesterday’s French elections that reminded me of the tribulations of the politico’s life. I was moved by the sad cases of two fine women. 

Well, perhaps not that sad. And you’d have to be a slave to a kind of thoroughly inappropriate old-world chivalry to apply the word ‘fine to the second of them. 

The first was poor Ségolène Royal. She ran for president against Nicolas Sarkozy last time round, in 2007. Hers must have been one of the weakest campaigns I have ever been horrified to observe. The culmination was when a comedian phoned her pretending to be the Premier of Quebec, and she walked straight into the trap eyes wide shut, making indiscreet comments about regional independence movements that Sarkozy then used against her.

Soon after her defeat she separated from her partner of nearly thirty years and father of her four children, François Hollande. Yes, that Hollande. In a move that does her great honour, she supported his campaign for the presidency this time round, which meant overcoming her animosity towards the woman Hollande left her for, Valérie Trierweiler.

In a move that does her far less honour, she offered that support as part of a deal that would see her appointed president (speaker) of the French lower house of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. Of course to be given the job, she needed to be a Deputy (MP) herself and Hollande organised for her to be adopted as candidate for the seat of La Rochelle. Unfortunately, La Rochelle already had a perfectly good candidate from the Socialist Party, Olivier Falorni. 

He wasn’t wholly overjoyed with the decision to push him aside for Royal and refused to stand down.

Many, many years ago I lived for a while in the seedy but interesting borough of Leyton in London’s distinctly unfashionable East. Leyton had been the setting for a remarkable event in British political history. In 1964, Labour returned to power after 13 years in opoposition. Sadly, the Labour spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Patrick Gordon Walker, lost his seat in the general election. The new Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, however refused to give up on his desire to appoint Gordon Walker Foreign Secretary. The sitting MP for the solid Labour seat of Labour was persuaded to resign to make way for Wilson’s man.

The people of Leyton were having none of it. For the only time in its history, the constituency elected a Conservative and Gordon Walker was left to lick his wounds.

It’s a good lesson. It isn’t always smart to treat the electorate as if they were just ballot fodder, only there to help stars of the political scene further their careers. 

Poor old Ségo. She’s just made the same discovery. The people of La Rochelle turned out for the dissident Falorni and denied her the seat she sought.

What makes her case all the more curious is that Trierweiler, the new girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend and new President, who it seems loathes her predecessor, had tweeted her support for Falorni. The scandal that ensued may not have lost Royal the election but it certainly didn’t help.

Who said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? In this love triangle, you might have thought Trierweiler was the woman blessed. But it clearly doesn't do to cross her. And apparently you cross her just by being the wounded party in the triangle. 

Ségo: just one things after another

Whose was the other sad, or perhaps not so sad, tale? 

Why, Marine le Pen
’s, in the northern constituency of Hénin-Beaumont. The worthy daughter of Jean-Marie le Pen and his successor as leader of the National Front, she has done much to raise the tone of political discourse in France. For instance, by launching a controversy over the domination of the French meat trade by Halal products. She turns out not to have been completely wrong: it seems that as much as 2.5% of meat on sale in France is Halal. That means that you only have 39 chances out of 40 that any piece of meat bought in the country will be non-Halal.

It seems that not enough people are that bothered. Despite her remarkable score in the presidential election, where she took 18% of the votes in the first round, she lost in Hénin-Beaumont. And by a mere 118 votes. How frustrating must that have been? Particularly as her upstart niece has managed to get herself elected in the South, to become the youngest MP in the country.

Oh, the bitterness of it for Marine. 

My view? Couldnt have happened to a more deserving person. 

Marine: deserving case

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