Sunday 19 January 2014

Two-penneth worth -1

A new type of post on my blog for this year is the "opinion" post. I have done a few such posts in the past, such as the podium girls post and the post on cyclist accidents and fatalities, but from now on I will put them under this series known as "two-penneth worth". (Or two cents' worth for my transatlantic and antipodean readers!)
The posts will be on any subject, including themes outside of cycling - like this post. So here goes with my first opinion post of the year. Looking forward to doing more.

Politician has extra-marital affair - et alors?

I'm not surprised to hear about what is happening in François Hollande's personal life at the moment. This is really not such an unusual thing among French politicians. In fact it is practically de rigueur that French politicians spread some of their wild oats outside of the marital home!

Former president François Mitterand had a love child with a woman that wasn't his wife. In fact in the 80s when the then UK Transport Minister, Cecil Parkinson resigned from his job over an extra-marital affair it was the same French President who famously said "if everyone in my cabinet resigned each time they had an affair there'd be no body left apart from my transport minister, who is a woman." Well, that woman was Edith Cresson, and Monsieur Mitterand was in the sack with her!

In France, playing away is not confined to politicians either. One of the most well respected journalists during the time I lived there in the 90s, Patrick Poivre d'Arvour, vehemently denied there was anything between himself and fellow newsreader Claire Chazal - until the day the media was suddenly presented with their 10-year-old love child!

I too recall a few occasions where I was propositioned by guys who were married. I never partook in any of those games though!

As far as I can see, the most noteworthy news about President Hollande's affair is the fact that he's been caught with his pants down, as well as the fact that he was spotted looking very unstylish on his 3-wheeler scooter travelling to one of his trysts - he could have at least gone there in a chauffeur driven car, like Jacques Chirac used to do!

While the French population has given a gallic "tut tut" to Hollande's ungentlemanly behaviour towards his partner, Valérie Trierweiler, the chattering classes have not been endeared by the reaction of the twice-married Paris Match journalist. This first lady had never been taken into the hearts of the people of France in the first place, since she ousted Ségolène Royal from the President's side. French women have an unwritten rule to not make themselves look like the victims of their partner's or husband's infidelity. By landing herself in hospital after an apparent overdose and depression Valérie Trierweiler has solicited many disapproving looks.

But out of all of this, my question is why should the British media impose its own values on the French president? Why are they talking of him resigning? Surely this is a private matter for Monsieur Hollande? Surely at the limit it is a matter for the French electorate? Folks are clearly annoyed over what the Co-Prince of Andorra has done, but none of the vox pops you see on TV have your average homme dans la rue calling for his resignation.

I am not saying that I am in favour of infidelity or even that it should not be condemned. I just don't see why it should be used as a yardstick for measuring the success or future of a man's political career. I can't see why the private life of any politician should take centre stage in world politics.

It is tempting to think that part of the reason for the media frenzy on this side of the Channel is fuelled by a jealousy that politicians here would not be able to do the same thing and get off scot free! Many UK politicians must be looking across whimsically at their counterparts in the Elysées Palace and the Assemblée Nationale, who have all kinds of mistresses and love nests under the eyes of the Parisian elite classes while still tucked away from the glare of the media (usually). Now that François Hollande has been "outed" by Closer magazine, the British media are making a real field day of it and calling it "payback time".

Who knows, a time may come when a British politician can have an extra-marital affair, even a love child, and still keep his job. Actually, that day may have already come - just ask Mayor of London, Boris Johnson! Sacré Bleu!

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