Wednesday, June 19, 2019

François Hollande and Julie Gayet: a French farce –

January 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Closer’s latest instalment on Friday (the editor, Laurence Pieau,
tantalisingly promises “more scoops” in coming weeks) claims that, reverting
to time-honoured form, the president, far from indulging in a mere fling,
had in fact been conducting a two-year secret affair, complete with weekends
on the Riviera and hand-in-hand strolls in Hollande’s constituency, with
separated mother-of-two Miss Gayet.

For years, this was how he had two-timed his partner Ségolène Royal with a
pretty, lively, quite married Paris-Match political journalist, Valérie
Trierweiler. Old interviews were dug up; while discreet, Miss Gayet had
mentioned that she had met “an older man, in politics, very different from
[her] previous partners” and that she was very much in love. Friends also
revealed that at a time when François Hollande and Valérie Trierweiler were
obviously attempting a new start, in the summer of 2012, Miss Gayet was more
than once found in tears – but by the autumn, she was her ebullient, happy
self again.

The minister for culture, Aurélie Filipetti, suddenly named Julie Gayet to the
2014 jury of France’s most prestigious, 350-year-old cultural prize, which
grants a year-long residency at the French Academy at Villa Medici in Rome
to a dozen artists. Laureates include the painters Fragonard and Ingres and
the musicians Bizet and Berlioz. Her appointment was suddenly cancelled
after the revelations.

Why should Hollande have worried? On the one hand, his two political mentors,
François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, pretty much got away with anything
of that nature for decades, sequentially and simultaneously: occasional
mistresses, quickies on the hustings, parallel families, an all-encompassing
roving eye. The French press was not only hemmed in by the most stringent
privacy laws in the Western world, it was also traditionally subservient to
politicians from whom, most of the time, it expected patronage and
subsidies. A different breed of investigative reporter had equally good
reason to want to keep the lid firmly shut on politicians’ private lives:
they themselves had arrangements that were compliqués, and did not wish to
put them in play.

When this has been the stuff of your formative years, it seems far-fetched to
consider that, perhaps, the freight train that eventually hits you straight
in your midsection was of your own creation. Even lacking François
Mitterrand’s sinuous sophistication, or Jacques Chirac’s feral swagger,
Hollande was noted over the years for enjoying an agreeably varied, if
complicated, private life far away from the glare of publicity.

There were always pretty Socialist volunteers; bright young sparks willing to
bravely contest a marginal seat; and of course female political journalists
of a certain type. His party’s long-standing spokesman before he became
leader, Hollande was a rarity among the breed of political énarques, those
haughty graduates of the Ecole nationale d’administration, the inbred elite
school whose alumni occupy most positions of power in France: he was
approachable, funny, unpretentious. His briefings, which I attended fairly
often in the mid-Nineties, were relaxed and mercifully cant-free. “To
women,” a friend who covered the Socialist party for years says, “he has
always had the Woody Allen appeal: he makes them laugh and listens to them.”

This same friend recalls, of Valérie Trierweiler, that “she was the only one
of our pack to take a huge wheeled suitcase on any junket to the provinces;
the rest of us made do with little holdalls but Valérie changed her outfits
and redid her hair three times a day.”

In an uncanny echo of today’s love triangle, Ségolène suspected, but didn’t
want to push things into the open, which is a very French way of managing
your man. (When a Frenchman lies to his wife, she assumes he may have
strayed, but actually wants to save the marriage; otherwise he wouldn’t go
to all this trouble. There are few more terrifying words to a French wife
than: “Darling, there’s something I must tell you…”)

Notorious for never firing anyone, Hollande is a man who believes in keeping
his friends close and his ex-girlfriends closer. While he grumbles about the
drama that always seems to follow him, it is difficult not to notice that he
always seems to leave a trail of handsome but hysterical women in his wake.
It seems as if Hollande himself, a man who has often spoken of his adored
mother’s unconditional love and the part it played in giving him a deep well
of self-confidence, is adept at withholding the assurances of his own love
from his various partners, as well as from his children. (He once famously
said: “I know I haven’t often been there for my children, but I know they
haven’t suffered from it at all.”)

During her 2007 presidential campaign, Ségolène, his partner of 23 years at
the time, and the mother of his four children, famously proposed to him,
only half in joke, on camera, during a television puff report that saw the
aspiring presidential couple making the rounds of her constituency. The
entire country recalls Hollande’s embarrassed pause, frozen half-grin, then
awkward answer: “I’ll answer this after the end of the programme.” Seven
years later, never having given the required answer, he similarly kicked
into touch last week a question by veteran journalist Nicolas Domenach on
who would accompany him as First Lady of France on his state visit to
Washington in mid-February. With exactly the same pained attempted grin,
Hollande promised that the press would have his answer by the time of the
visit itself.

The truth is that, again true to form, he hasn’t made up his mind yet. Various
visitors report different strategies, still mooted or already aborted. Last
week, after the first flurry of revelations, a number of advisers pushed him
to make a quick break with Valérie Trierweiler, a woman who is almost as
disliked by the Elysée staff as she is by the country at large. Reporters
were told to expect a joint communiqué during the weekend, possibly even on
Saturday: this would, the spin team hoped, make the separation relatively
old news by
the following Tuesday’s press conference

This was scotched in no uncertain terms by Miss Trierweiler. Closer had
ridiculed her into the unwilling patsy of a French farce: she dramatised
proceedings by making public the fact that her old friend François Bachy, a
former TF1 reporter now head of corporate communications for the state-owned
bank Caisse des Dépôts (a cushy appointment she is said to have pushed for),
had driven her straight to La Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital some time on
Friday. Various rumours made the rounds, from “she took one pill too many”
to “she’s exhausted and her blood pressure is dangerously low”.

In fact, say insiders, her blood pressure was, if anything, boiling when
Hollande told her of Closer’s story on the eve of publication, and she threw
a violent tantrum, smashing, among others, a priceless Sèvres vase belonging
to the Elysée. Hollande, who has been at the receiving end of such tantrums
more than once in recent years, just stood there expressionless until she
left in tears, having called the faithful Bachy.

Within 24 hours, Hollande had texted to suggest his idea of a clean exit. Not
being married to the president, Miss Trierweiler no doubt reflected bitterly
that if she acquiesced meekly, she would find herself fired as ‘First
Girlfriend’ without notice, with a brutality no employment court would
countenance in France, a country notorious for its strict labour protection
laws. Again echoing Ségolène Royal’s many attempts to reconquer her man
years earlier, Trierweiler spoke to another friendly journalist, Frédéric
Gerschel of Le Parisien, saying grandly that as long as she obtained
“clarification”, she was ready “to forgive”.

And there things more or less rested for the week. Trierweiler became the
Schrödinger First Lady, unseen but a ghostly presence inside her closed
hospital room, overshadowing Hollande’s press conference with intent. It
should be noted that while the foreign press found the whole show surreal,
Hollande is reportedly very pleased with his performance: according to one
poll, 75 per cent of the French approve his refusal to talk of his affair;
and some 40 per cent favour his economic turn to the Centre.

Trierweiler has now left the hospital
, where Hollande visited her only
once, moving on to rest (at the taxpayers’ expense) at La Lanterne, the
presidential weekend residence in the park of Versailles. And while her
desire to be spared the glare of publicity in a protected environment is
understandable, it is also obvious that she is clinging to any signs that
suggest she is still part of the presidential machine. “It’s Hollande,” one
journalist who’s followed him for years says. “He may yet take her back.”

Nobody close to the scene in Paris is willing to take bets on its outcome. The
general consensus is that once again, in the middle of a storm, Hollande has
elected to wait. His calculations may be wrong. French attitudes to the
whole affair have been notably contradictory, with “classic” pollsters
receiving the “expected” answers, while an online analysis reveals a very
different story.

From the social media to internet polls, the interest is still white hot.
Closer sold all of its 600,000 copies in 24 hours in the first week, and is
reprinting this week’s issue after an initial 700,000 print run. Analysts
recall that the French similarly said they were not interested in Nicolas
Sarkozy’s private life – and yet their 2012 choice to vote him out was
essentially driven by his personality, not his politics. It’s something the
Sarkozy-obsessed Hollande might usefully ponder.

Source Article from
François Hollande and Julie Gayet: a French farce –
World – Google News
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