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Really, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. French presidents, and American ones, too, have been having affairs, well, er, since the First Republic! History shows it just goes with the office!
Charles de Gaulle was, perhaps, the only French president not to have one. OK, perhaps, that’s not totally true. But it is widely known that many French presidents, and aspiring ones, too, a node and a wink in the direction of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, enjoyed the company of more than just their partners.
So the current aghast at Monsieur Hollande’s alleged behaviour sounds a bit faux and disingenuous to say the least.
So what are the real questions of President Hollande’s alleged affair?
Before posing them, let’s first acknowledge that President Hollande surely has some management skills. He was able to successfully execute and manage the alleged relationship even though his partner and First Lady, Valerie Trierweiler, was also ensconced at the Elysee Palace!
The public too were none the wiser, that is, of course, until the story was broken by the French tabloid Closer. And, perhaps, that was President Hollande’s first mistake – never get photographed in private together!
So, my first question is, while he was successfully juggling affairs of the heart, who was managing the other mistress that all French presidents must keep close to their breast, and that is, of course, la mademoiselle, France herself?
And why was France neglected to such an extent that in the third quarter of 2013, the French economy contracted by 0.1% while the rest of Europe was growing with UK recording the highest growth rate among OECD countries?
And why has France proposed one of the highest tax burdens in Europe, a whopping 75%, which will surely hurt the French economy, as those businesses and individuals that can, leave to avoid it – as has already happened with Russian emigre Gerard Depardieu? It doesn’t make sense!
And on a security note, whilst in the private company of his alleged mistress, was the French head-of-state safe and sufficiently protected?
These are some of the more important questions that should be asked of Francois Hollande as he wrestles with another presidential faux pas.
Case in point. I’m traveling back to Luton Airport on a Ryanair flight from Morocco. The Captain announced that smoking was prohibited and that anyone caught smoking will be arrested by either the UK or Moroccan authorities.
One-and-a-half hours into the flight, the Captain announces that the person caught smoking, I assume in the toilets, will be detained by Her Majesty’s men in blue.
Que stupido! and what a sad end, or beginning, to somebody’s vacation.
The news of his death came as a surprise but it was not a shock, as we were all aware of the state of health of “Madiba” given the world media’s 24-hour stakeout at the foot of his hospital bed, almost, in the months prior to his death.
So, it’s funny how, after causing a gaggle of reporters to converge on his Pretoria hospital, a terminally ill Mandela still managed to wrong-foot them all, and somewhat peacefully slip away and avoid a similar distasteful media feeding frenzy.
So his knack of outwitting opponents, detractors and others alike continued to the end and I recall a certain Iron Lady forever being tarnished by her unwillingness to impose sanctions on an apartheid regime and her labeling of Mandela a terrorist.
In 1996, as President of South Africa, that same “terrorist” paid a triumphant state visit to Britain but declined to meet the former Prime Minister. Then, in 2006, as Tory leader and aspiring Prime Minister, David Cameron wrote an article for the Observer newspaper where he recanted Thatcher’s views on Mandela and the ANC.
But one of my enduring memories will be the day that Mandela was released from the notorious Robben Island prison. As a young boy, living on the Caribbean island of St Lucia, I watched, tearfully, as Mandela made his first few steps of freedom after spending 27 years behind bars.
As someone acutely aware of the struggles in South Africa, Mandela’s struggle was my struggle and his struggle was for freedom, equality and dignity for all South Africans; thus, merely the rights enshrined in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But what endeared me even more to Mandela was his unequivocal willingness to heal the scars of apartheid, to reconcile a nation, and to look forward to what South Africa could be – a united, rainbow nation under the sun.
This profound legacy was claimed by Mandela whilst a similar one afforded to Robert Mugabe, a hero of the struggles for freedom in former Rhodesia (nka Zimbabwe), was lost.
I never met Mr Mandela, but I’m proud to say that my sister did.
In 1998, as President of South Africa, Mandela paid a visit to St Lucia to attend the 25th anniversary of the founding of Caricom, the Caribbean trade block.
As part of the four-person organising committee for the closing ceremony, my sister was introduced to the great man and she’s very proud to have a snap of the occasion.