Sunday 15 December 2019

What goes on between covers may close book on Francois

Valerie Trierweiler (C), former companion of French President Francois Hollande (R)
Valerie Trierweiler (C), former companion of French President Francois Hollande (R)
Julie Gayet

Alain Du Tomas

French president Francois Hollande has felt not so much the sting of a woman scorned but more like the scorpion bite of an entire nation.

His former partner Valerie Trierweiler's revelations may have provided the initial venom concerning a litany of alleged infidelities in a new book, but the slow death of his relationship with the electorate began way before the latest detonations shook his world.

Miss Trierweiler, France's first lady until earlier this year, paints a harsh portrait of her ex-lover, describing him as a "mean liar" who perpetuates a "cycle of infidelity". And her claims that he despises the poor will do nothing to help the image of the Socialist leader.

Blowback from personal relationship catastrophes are seldom fatal in France and can generally be dismissed with a genial Gallic shrug. But Mr Hollande may not be so fortunate this time out. His 'approval rating hit a record low of 13pc in August, a poll this week showed a further securing of his status as the most unpopular president in France since World War Two. 

New low

The survey by pollster TNS-Sofres showed that support for Hollande fell by five percentage points from the previous month,to reach the lowest level ever registered by the institution fora sitting president.

The Socialist Hollande has lost backing including among many left-wing voters largely due to frustration over his performance on the economic front, with unemployment close to a record high above 10pc and growth nearly flat.

TNS-Sofres conducted its poll between August 28 and September 1 questioning 1,000 people in face-to-face interviews.  Ms Trierweiler's claims that as well as being a bore, he is a fornicator and a nincompoop in her excoriating account of their time together, will do nothing to redeem him. The couple split in January amid reports Mr Hollande was having an affair with French actress Julie Gayet.

 To his credit he did not chose to deny the rumours, but he didn't quite embrace them either: "Private affairs should be handled privately," he said at the time. In her 320-page " It is the most elaborate and public account yet of the president's alleged infidelities.

According to Miss Trierweiler, their relationship was born out of the dying embers of one infidelity only to be consumed by the flames of another. She claims that they almost got as far as the altar rails, but not quite. She wrote that he proposed in September 2012 and they planned a private wedding just before Christmas. With fewer than 30 days to go to wresting the gold ring from the hands of fortune, Mr Hollande abruptly called dashed all those dreams.

"Julie Gayet was already in his life, but I didn't know," wrote Miss Trierweiler, who was a veteran of  When she fell in love with the man who would be president, the mother of three was married, and he was the long-time partner of Segolene Royal, also a Socialist politician, and father of their four children. They split in 2007, two years after his affair with Miss Trierweiler began.

 Miss Trierweiler lamented that she has been seen by many as the destroyer of the "mythic couple" of French politics: Royal was the Socialist nominee in the 2007 presidential race, but lost. "I appear to everybody as the temptress, the mean one, the home breaker," Miss Trierweiler wrote.

She said she discovered his tryst with Gayet just days before gossip magazine  Somewhat unexpectedly for a politician who years ago quipped about his dislike of rich people, Miss Trierweiler wrote that Mr Hollande "doesn't like the poor" and once disdainfully referred to them as "toothless". But support for Mr Hollande came from Miss Royal - the ecology and energy minister now in his Socialist Cabinet. She defended him, telling BFM-TV that he was an ardent defender of the poor while he was a regional governor years ago.

As several Paris booksellers reported brisk sales, some shoppers bemoaned the book's unflattering revelations. "Surely it gives a deplorable image of our president," Jean-Pierre Geoffroy said at a Paris bookstore. "It's vengeance and it's not very honourable of her." Honourable or not, it is selling like hot cakes.

Irish Independent

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