Thursday, 20 November 2008

Left, left, left, right, left...

British friends living in France have been asking me to explain what the hell is going on in the main opposition Socialist party. "It's a bit complicated," I say, not knowing where to start. By popular demand here is a cut-out-and-keep aide memoire of the most salient points.

* The Socialist Party will elect a new leader today.

* The 200,000 party members will decide between three candidates:
a) Ségolène Royal, glamorous, failed presidential candidate
b) Martine Aubry, Mayor of Lille, architect of France's 35-hour working week and daughter of Jacques Delors, once the most hated Frenchman in Britain and the target of The Sun's "Hop off You Frog" and "Up Yours Delors" campaigns.
c) Benoit Hamon, a young left-winger who few people had heard of up until now and even now

* Ms Royal used to live with the current leader of the Socialist Party François Hollande, with whom she has four children. She threw him out last year, after she lost the presidential election to Nicolas Sarkozy, allegedly because he - Hollande that is - had an affair with a political journalist. (Confusingly Mr Sarkozy also had an affair with a political journalist).

* Bertrand Delanoe, the gay Mayor of Paris was a candidate and was mean about rival Ms Aubry - and she about him - before he decided to withdraw. He now supports Ms Aubry.

* Mr Hollande supported Mr Delanoe as his successor. He does not support Ms Royal. This is an understatement.

* Ms Royal can talk for France. And talk, and talk, and talk. During the presidential campaign she appeared utterly incapable of giving a straight, succinct answer. (I followed the campaign and by the end I wanted to saw my wrists with a blunt ballpoint every time she spoke).

* Mr Delanoe, who is very popular among Parisians, had his own Hillary Clinton moment last year when required to support publicly Ms Royal's presidential campaign.

* Ms Royal is the favourite to win the leadership battle decided by a vote of party members, but was booed and jeered at a party conference last weekend at Rheims filled members.

* Mr Hollande, a bespectacled Billy Bunter-ish figure who was right-hand man to Lionel Jospin, the Socialist before Ms Royal to have a go at being president but who was knocked into third place by far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen of the Front National, was forced to cancel the conference closing speech as the whole event turned into a viper's nest of insults and mutual loathing.

* Ms Aubry is the French equivalent of Old Labour and Ms Royal, New Labour. They do not like each other. This is also an understatement.

* Ms Royal has hinted that it might be a good idea to let Mr Hamon, who is young but Old Labour, lead the party, to thus thwart rivals Aubry and Delanoe.

* If Ms Royal wins it will probably split the party and destroy any hope of an effective opposition in France for the immediate and foreseeable future.

* Ms Royal still wants to be president and wants to challenge Mr Sarkozy in 2012. If her party carries on as it is, she stands about as much chance as I do of leading France.

There we are. Clear as mud I fear.


Jaywalker said...

Ok, the bit I have failed to grasp is WHY Delanoe isn't still in the running. Is he viewed as too Paris centric so thought he would lose? Or is it strategic so he can run for president? I hope the latter, I am rather fond of him.

Royal - god, send your blunt Bic over here, ParisGirl. SHUT UP woman.
I am thoroughly gauchiste and rarely shout at the tv when left wingers are on because of my blind, birthright loyalty, but she is an exception.

Dumdad said...


Stinking Billy said...

Ave vou my mate's mess-tin? I'm sorry, but that is the only French I have. However, your excellent summary of the current French political scene does not surprise me at all. The whole world knows that it is all conducted in the boudoir (oops, is that a French word?). ;-) Would we swap you governments? Of course we would!

Henry the Dog said...

This is all too complicated for me but my mum will love it - she was asking her french friend to explain it this morning but I think she'll appreciate it in plain english instead of that strange gobbledygook they speak over here.

Cimon said...

Martine Aubry does not deserve a Mrs as she is now 58 (the same applies to Marie-Ségolène Royal, who is 55).

OK, sorry, I leave !

Cimon said...

I forgot the question mark at the end of my first phrase.
This time I leave !

Parisgirl said...

Jaywalker, the reason Delanoe gave for pulling out was that he didn't want to add to party divisions. I think it was more because he knew he would not win, possibly because he is seen as being too Paris centric. Pity as I'd vote for him.
Thanks Dumdad and Henry.
Billy, you said this mess-tin business was a joke in an earlier comment: what's the joke? I promise you do NOT want the French government. Trust me on this!
Cimon, you are pulling my leg (what's that in French?). 'Mrs' in English is only used for married women, which Ségolène is not. I have no idea if Martine is married and I fear under French privacy laws I'm not allowed to ask. So the choice is 'Miss' or 'Ms'.

Cimon said...

S. Royal has never been married, so she would not qualify for Mrs (although her age would definitely - in France - yerk yerk yerk).

As far as M. Aubry is concerned, please note that :
1/ The marital (or even PACS-al) status is public, as it is written down on the registre d'état civil (and more generally, the non publicity is a cause of marriage nullity) ;
2/ M. Aubry is divorced (which explains why she is not known as M. Delors - but N. Sarlozy's real name is Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa, so who knows...). So I guess she qualifies for Mrs, doesn't she ?

Note that the French often use incorrectly "Mr." for Monsieur, as it should be written "M.".
To my knowledge, Mr stands for mister and M to monsieur...

parisgirl said...

Cimon, Martine could indeed be called Mrs in English, but as Ms covers any marital status or lack of I decided to treat her and Ségolène equally.
But enough of titles: please tell us what you think of the PS situation.

Cimon said...

I think the PS will soon blow up : a right wing that will go with modem (and probably merge) and a left wing that might be a part of a block including PCF and LCR. About the same as the TCE clash...

Exactly what's happening in Germany with die Linke growing and SPD getting smaller.

Personnally, I really have problems with SR, but, to be honest I have problems with many politicians (starting with my députée - who might also be yours, or at least your husband's - Ms Pau-Langevin). For example, the latter voted "no" to the Constitution modification allowing to ratificate the Lisbonne treaty (which was a way for the PS to show how people'voice abiding, left wing, antiliberal, workers friendly people they were) but voted yes to the Lisbonne treaty ratification itself (which probably means they are pro-European, responsible, pragmatic people). This is the main problem with the PS : they would like to say they are left wing, but they want to win the elections (and the keystone is the center), so they just keep looking for a political line to follow and never opt for any... They are tiring !