All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Monday, 12 October 2009

France's Profumo moment...

Frédéric MitterandImage by Feuillu via Flickr

In the early 1960s in the U.K., the right wing, the Conservative Party, were in power under the leadership of Harold MacMillan, nicknamed Supermac, famed for informing the British people that they had never had it so good. The left wing, the Labour Party, were torn apart by internal strife and provided no effective opposition. Everything seemed to be going MacMillan's way, and then, in times of growing discontent with the economy, a sex scandal hit the news. A cabinet minister, suspected of extra marital relations with a young woman who was also having the same sort of relations with an official at the Russian Embassy, denied to the House of Commons that this had taken place. As more details became available, he was forced to apologise to the House for lying to it...the one unpardonable crime that a minister could then commit...and was obliged to resign.
The establishment fell over itself in revenge on the minor actors in the drama, two somewhat lively young ladies and a society osteopath who acted as the go between. So virulent was the reaction of the authorities that the latter, Stephen Ward, committed suicide during his trial.
But the incident, almost banal in itself, marked a change of public attitude...the people at large lost any confidence in the establishment. Whatever sort of people were running the country? Supermac was no longer trusted...satirical programmes found a ready audience...Britain was ready for change and the Labour Party managed to pull itself together under Harold Wilson to take advantage of the moment.

Let us move forward to 2009 and to France. Sarkozy is well in the driving seat with no effective opposition. The left wing, the PS, is in disarray, its' leaders quarrelling over the disposition of the carcass of the party. What can go wrong for Sarkozy?
Mitterand. Frederic Mitterand, that's what could go wrong for Sarkozy.

Mitterand finds himself at the centre of controversy about his self proclaimed sexual proclivities and he, with the French establishment solidly behind him, is determined to brazen it out. Those who have attacked him have come under heavy fire for being everything from homophobes to racists via holier than thou...the sanctity of the private lives of politicans has been invoked, the media swinging into line with headlines screaming that 67 per cent of the French don't consider that Mitterand should resign while heavyweight pundits roar into action to attack his detractors. But the public don't appear to be impressed. The poll, taken for Canal+, I think, had only 1005 participants and the comment columns in the press don't accord with its' findings.

However, the interesting point is that Mitterand himself appears almost secondary. The controversy has brought into question everything about the way things are run in France....people are beginning to get indignant. Whatever sort of people are running the country?
Hard times always bring discontent, and times are certainly harder than they have been for years, but normally the French are supine...mostly because they know all too well what putting your head above the parapet brings you...victimisation. However, some things cannot be borne and that such a man can be made a government minister has roused a considerable sight more than discontent - it has roused disgust. Allied to the incredible stupidity of trying to appoint a 24 year old unsuccessful law student as head of a billion euro public enterprise and the massive waste of public money on the Clearstream trial, to settle the scores between rival politicans, the issue has brought people out of their trenches. People have had enough of Paris centred views, divorced from the reality of life in the country as a whole. People want an end to the old cry of
'Nous sommes pour rien' - we count for nothing.

Nothing happens very fast when a nation changes course, but change does happen and France needs change very badly.

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  1. Well, I wish the French people luck! Experience has not taught me to hold out much hope for political change, but little steps, I suppose.

  2. Pueblo girl, I just think they might have a chance....but it won't be with the PS unless they really change their ways - they're out of the same dish as the rest of the Paris mafia.

  3. I normally avoid reading about politics...a subject which tends to make my eyes glaze over, but you make it so interesting that I find myself hanging on to every word. Thankyou!

  4. Ayak, if politics were what it should be...about people, you would be fascinated...just like law.
    That's a nice compliment, thank you.
    We're off to stay with friends for a few weeks..away from a computer....but they do have a TV, so I'll be able to see how it all plays out.

  5. It is fascinating, thank you for writing about a story we don't see in the papers here.

  6. The Mitterand affair is about to be relagated to a sideshow, I believe, by the Jean Sarkozy business. The President himself said today (October 13th) in support of his plans to reform the lycées:

    "Un geste qui signifiait, très concrètement, la fin des privilèges de la naissance. (…) Cela voulait dire que désormais que ce qui compte en France pour réussir ce n'est plus d'être “bien né” ; pour réussir, c'est travailler dur et avoir fait la preuve, par ses études, par son travail, de sa valeur."

    For the non-French speakers, my translation of this (which may not be 100% but is a sight better than Google's):

    "An act that signifies, quite rightly, the end to the privilages of birth. It means that, in the future, what will be necessary for success in France will no longer to be of high birth; to succeed, it will be necessary to work hard and to prove, through one's study, through one's hard work, that one has value."

    Now, square this with the comment on young Mr Sarkozy of the departing chairman of Epad that "in souls nobly born valour does not depend upon age." You can't? Neither can I.

    Sex scandals make very little impression on the French public, and the Mitterand affair would have fizzled out. But "La Defense-gate" has the potential to ruin Sarko. If he continues to support the rediculous nomination of a 23 year-old with no relevent experience whatsoever for this absolute plum of a job he will be handing his opponents the biggest stick they could ever wish for with which to beat him. Forget the PS - the challenge will come from within his own party ranks.

  7. Zuleme, the French are convinced that the whole world is talking about it! there is a petition going the rounds to ask Sarkozy junior to desist from standing for Epad and one of the reasons quoted for encouraging people to sign up is that ´the English are laughing at us.!! Well, we are

    Jon in France, Mitterand isn´t exactly a sex scandal like, for example Bessonm which really is something and but I agree that the Sarkozy junior affair has covered Sarkozy with ridicule. However, without the groundswell of discontent about Mitterand in the UMP I doubt so many politicians would be brave enough to raise voices, even discreetly, against this mad folly.
    I loved the ambiguity of the quote from ´Le Cid´....old age or youth depending on how you want to read it!
    What I hear is sheer disgust at the appointment of Mitterand, an affair which will be submerged, as you say, by, as MacMillan said
    Évents, dear boy, events.´

  8. At least Profumo had the decency to apologise for his peccadiloes and tried to make amends. I think he redeemed himself. What can you say about a person like Mitterand, who glorifies his own depravity?

    Sarkozy, Berlusconi, Brown, they're all a bunch of dangerous clowns.

  9. nodamnblog, yes, these people think they are 'above' all that....decency, shame, etc...

  10. great post. thanks for sharing.