There was a moment when it looked like French Closer had done President Hollande a favour. His poll ratings have been abysmal and the economy has tanked. What better distraction than a little ooh la la?
Scandals such as these reveal the character of a nation and its politics. If a British minister had dispatched his chauffeur to fetch post-coital croissants, there would have been delirious uproar about the misuse of taxpayers’ money. But the French have never really cared about politicians wasting their money: National Assembly Deputies take home the equivalent of £211,000 in pay, and enjoy completely unaudited expenses. Most Parisians seem more surprised that the much derided president had it in him.
After the initial tittering, the story began to take darker turns. French Closer agreed to remove it from their website after a complaint from the lawyers of Julie Gayet, the actress who is alleged to be President Hollande’s mistress. Meanwhile, the French president’s official partner, Valérie Trierweiler, was admitted to a Paris clinic on Friday. There has been vague talk from her office about her needing to ‘get some rest and have some tests done’. She is expected to be released today.
Black farce has followed the suggestion that the flat where the alleged assignations between Gayet and Hollande took place is linked to the Corsican mafia. It is claimed by French website Mediapart that the flat was made available by Emmanuelle Hauck, an actress friend of Ms Gayet’s. She was married to Michel Ferracci, who was given an 18-month suspended sentence last year for his role in an illicit gambling ring connected to the Corsican mafia. It also claimed that, after Ms Hauck left Mr Ferracci, she took up with Francois Masini. He was found dead in his car in Corsica last May. There were multiple gunshot wounds to his head and torso.
Other media outlets have suggested that the flat was the property of the wife of a business tycoon who allowed amorous politicians to use it.
This story is fantastic, like something out of a New Wave film. The President, his mistress and the Mob – the French may have many faults, but dullness is not one of them.
UPDATE: Mr S is saddened to report that Valérie Trierweiler will remain in the clinic today. She needs more rest.