Sunday 21 January 2018

Political scandal has a different flavour in France

Ousted minister Rachida Dati
Ousted minister Rachida Dati

THE world hardly needs further proof that the French do political scandal differently.

But just to copperfasten the case comes the story about an ousted French cabinet minister accused of spreading stories about the state of the Sarkozy marriage.

And there is the Gallic guarantee of glamour. Quite apart from the presence in the mix of Carla Bruni, the former minister in question also exudes, well, hardly je ne sais quoi, more five-star, fullon French femininity.

So yes, while France deals with political problems that could be found anywhere — last week’s row over a €116,000 bill for a private jet to fly a minister to Martinique being a case in point — le tout Paris is more likely to be discussing the curious case of Rachida Dati.

The former minister had her government security team withdrawn after being blamed for spreading rumours about the state of Nicolas Sarkozy's marriage. The president is said to believe his former justice minister, whom he ousted from the cabinet, started talk that his wife, Carla Bruni- Sarkozy, was having an affair with Benjamin Biolay, a pop singer, while he was allegedly seeing his ecology minister, Chantal Jouanno.

Ms Dati has been deprived of her chauffeur-driven limousine and three bodyguards.

Mr Sarkozy has dismissed the affair allegations as idiotic “rantings” but is said to be determined to find out who was behind them.

Ms Dati confirmed last week that the car, driver and bodyguards had been removed. However, she said that she did not think Mr Sarkozy had directly given the order. The culprit was, she said, Brice Hortefeux, the interior minister — one of her worst enemies and the president's oldest friend. He subsequently called to apologise, she added, but she hung up.

Ms Dati made history in 2007 when Mr Sarkozy made her the first Muslim woman to hold a top ministerial position.

She was introduced to the president by his second wife, Cecilia, who described her as “my sister”.

Relations with his new bride, Carla, were strained, with one biographer claiming that the first lady strolled round the Elysee apartments with Ms Dati, and stopped by the presidential bed to murmur: “You'd have liked to have occupied that, wouldn't you?”

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