Day 66 – It seemed like a good time to drive into ‘deepest’ France

An Everyday Story of Cobblestone-Searching Folk

Much time has been expended in ‘Looking for Pavés’ (similar to the Waits for Godot and Macron’s Programme). A hot lead had emerged that in deepest Vexin (north-west of Paris) pavés might be found. Those not old enough to be soixante-huitards (May ’68ers) might find this helpful. A resonant slogan of May ’68 had been ‘Sous les pavés, la plage‘ (Under the paving stones, the beach) being either a call to dig up Paris’s paving stones for barricades/weapons or an expression of liberty.

Those incommunicado for 24 hours might first welcome a quick résumé of Yesterday In Paris. You will find all you could possibly need in two Guardian articles (one there and one here) or on BBC News. [Due to rights restrictions, I am regrettably unable to offer even low quality photos of Fillon with quadriped.]

Today’s front-page headlines encapsulate yesterday’s somewhat lively day:

  • ‘The Madman of the Sarthe’ (leftist Libération – Fillon’s home is in the Sarthe]
  • ‘The  Appeal to the People’ (centre-right Figaro) … contrasting with the previous day’s more upbeat ‘How Francois Fillon wants to relaunch his campaign’
  • ‘Fillon determined, the right full of doubt’ (business Les Echos)
  • ‘Macron tells us all’ (exclusive in the popular Le Parisien)
  • ‘Fillon denounces a ‘political assassination” (centre-left Le Monde)
  • ‘François Fillon accuses Justice’ (catholic La Croix)

though the best is surely Figaro‘s nearly hour-by-hour description of ‘What should be remembered from François Fillon’s frenzied day’ (in French).

Anyway, back to yesterday. Driving Vexinwards, I had been thinking about a reflective piece on politicians’ attitudes to the legal system. Then France Info alerted me to the coming storm. In the light of what was likely to happen, I was wondering how to present my apologia. It would just have to be more sympathetic shoulder-shrugging, while smilingly repeating ‘What do I know?’

I remembered another aeon (Day 91) when I had scribbled 3 Posts. Two had said it was unimaginable that Fillon would/could fight on, the third (The Last Post … for me) announced Fillon was hanging in there and hanging on.

So the sad vision of déjà vu(ism) was strong when, before 08:00 yesterday, news broke that Fillon had cancelled his visit to the endless allées of the Salon de l’Agriculture.  That was when he should already have been cow-patting (get it?). Instead he would hold a midday press conference. No-one with serious political pretensions misses the Salon. Chirac always spent 10 hours there … as did Le Pen this week.

There followed a morning of necessarily uninformed speculation: Fillon would stand down/Fillon or his family were about to be taken for trial/Fillon would pass the flaming (or poisoned?) torch to Juppé, who would be at his side. And the guessing-game had to go on for an interminable extra 30 minutes beyond midday before Fillon finally spoke.

Every commentator was wrong.

Fillon was calm, but his language was violent: ‘political assassination … the rule of law has been systematically violated … the presumption of innocence has completely disappeared … the timing [summoned to appear before judges 2 days before nominations close, in the ‘perspective’ of being charged] chosen so that not only am I assassinated but also the Presidential Election … only universal suffrage shall decide who is President … only the people can decide.’ Super-Hyperbolic-Stuff.

So virulent indeed were the attacks against what Fillon was effectively claiming to be almost a political/legal stitch-up that Président Hollande evidently felt constrained to intervene in the late afternoon. He ‘solemnly’ spoke against ‘calling into question the role of the judges.’ ‘Being a Presidential candidate’ he said ‘does not authorise one to throw suspicion on the work of the police and the judges’. [As often, Hard Left Melenchon had a good take. He spoke of ‘every citizen being summoned to vote for [Fillon’s] immunity’. Remember: if elected President, Fillon’s home free [literally so] for 5 (or, if re-elected, 10) years. That privilege of avoiding trial does not, alas, apply to family members. It’s said that Mme Fillon is also summoned to appear before investigating magistrates.]

Live embarrassment can be viewed online as members of the Fillon team are filmed by Huffington Post around 08:00 (in French) learning that his visit to the Salon had been cancelled … while they knew nothing of it.

The President of the highest Court in France, the Cour de Cassation issued a press statement (in French) mid-evening yesterday saying that an ‘over-excited atmosphere has recently developed in political circles concerning the way Justice works’. He said that Justice is above ‘exaggerated criticism’ and ‘has no need for support’. The judges, he declared, work ‘at their own pace in total independence.’

You will be pleased to know that Fillon was able, later in the afternoon, to have a good 4 hours at the Salon de l’Agriculture. He strolled around (surrounded by photographers) as if nothing at all had happened, refused to engage with journalists and was applauded and whistled alike.

One of Fillon’s Parliamentary mates is organising a ‘large rally’  for those who can get to Trocadero (directly across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower) at 15:00 on Sunday afternoon. It was emphasised that this ‘is not a rally against the judges but for [Fillon’s] candidature … and everyone’s welcome’. Could the site chosen for this heart-warming opportunity to declare public support for M. Fillon have anything to do with the signature of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights next door in the Palais de Chaillot: its signature being commemorated by a stone memorial in Trocadero.

Yesterday finally saw a steady draining away of support from Fillon with the centrist UDI party suspending its campaign for Fillon. The punchline being that now but a quarter of the French want Fillon to continue as a candidate, with centre/right voters (in French) being split 50/50. So I could still end up getting it wrong about Fillon standing


To be approved by the Constitutional Court as Presidential candidate, each person needs to obtain 500 ‘signatures’ from MPs, Senators, Regional Councillors and local Mayors representing 30+ French Departments (no more than 10% from the same Department).

These ‘signatures’ are called parrainages (‘endorsements’). This year, for the first time, the Constitutional Court publishes parrainages as they arrive – though publication does not mean approval.

By one of those delicious turns of fate, yesterday turned out to be the day for the very first publication of the very first bunch of parrainages that had arrived at the Court. And guess what? Mr Fillon has already obtained 738 signatures. So if his parrainages are duly approved he can stand as Presidential Candidate. Macron has 229 signatures and Le Pen 25 … but these are very early days.

No less than 25 people have obtained at least one parrainage and are, therefore, officially in the race. But, to get Under Starter’s Orders, many will need an awful lot more signatures. Lists will be published at least twice a week … and, should you want, you can ask to be informed directly by the Constitutional Court of nominations received.

Opinion Polls

Little point in talking about them in any detail until this latest news about Fillon can be absorbed. Overall, polls show that it’s highly likely (now even likelier) to be Macron v Le Pen in the 2nd round, with Macron winning. Macron’s vote seems more solid than before. And what of that famous political programme of his? He gave an exclusive interview on it to Le Parisien/Aujourd’hui (sister popular papers) and Macron will present it to the nation later today.

National Front

Le Monde wrote several pieces over the weekend decrying the fact that all candidates have thrown in the towel against Le Pen. They’ve all effectively said she will get one of the 2 run-off places, so there’s only one place to fight for.

Le Monde gave several examples:

  • At last Friday’s public meeting Fillon devoted 8 lines of his speech to Le Pen … but two and a half pages to attacks on Macron.
  • Some leading Républicains have urged Fillon not to neglect Le Pen, saying he should be more offensive against her. The leaders of 2 regions that led Républicain campaigns that defeated the FN last year (North and South) complain about Fillon ignoring the FN.
  • Juppé supporters are quoted as saying that leaving attacks on Le Pen till the 2nd round will mean she can get to be President.
  • Even Macron does not make full frontal attacks against Le Pen. He goes into Front National ‘territories’ to campaign. But there’s no detailed criticism of eg her policies on the Euro or closing the frontiers.
  • Macron said “The Front National is at the gates of power. We must construct a form of coalition.’ He also repeats the mantra that Le Pen will be his opponent.

All this merely serves to legitimises Le Pen still more.

When the Cour de Cassation spoke about criticism, it was undoubtedly thinking of Le Pen’s attacks on the judicial process as well. Le Pen had declared that there must not be’government by the judges’. She also warned civil servants (fonctionnaires) against participating in ‘state-organised persecution’ saying ‘The State we want will be patriotic’.

Le Pen also criticised Pierre Bergé, part-owner of Le Monde, saying he ‘puts his newspaper at Macron’s service ‘ensuring that Le Monde is a ‘weapon of war against the candidature [she] represents’.

There is one solid difference, at least, between Fillon’s reaction to Justice and Le Pen’s:

  • she told the police to get lost
  • he will do the honourable thing and attend for his ‘summons’.

Apart from that, there aren’t many other significantly discernible differences.

Personal news

An old man approached Macron in Brive la Gaillarde. Despite Macron’s 4 bodyguards, the old man succeeded in doing what he wanted. He said ‘I just wanted to touch him’.

And finally, turning to The Unreconstructed Neo-Nazi corner. You will be glad to hear that the Court of Appeal yesterday confirmed the €30K fine on Jean-Marie Le Pen (Le Pen’s father AND the curiously-titled Président d’Honneur (sic) of the Front National) for repeating his statement that the gas chambers were ‘a detail of history’.

Maybe time next time for News on Presidential Programmes.

2 thoughts on “Day 66 – It seemed like a good time to drive into ‘deepest’ France

  1. I watched Fillon’s announcement yesterday and was also surprised by the vehemence of his attack on the judicial system, and those who have brought him in to close contact with it. But it is difficult to believe that the decision to require him to appear two days before the closure of candidatures (and on the Ides of March!) was taken without any regard to the calendar. Justice may be blind, but it isn’t daft. Be that as it may, his decision to fight on won’t do him any harm with those tempted to support Le Pen, and it won’t do Macron any harm either.

    What continues to surprise me (although maybe it shouldn’t given the example from across the Channel) is the disarray on the left. If you add together Hamon’s and Melenchon’s intentions to vote on the latest (albeit unreliable) poll in Les Echos you get to 27% – more than any other candidate. But the PS seems more interested in undermining their own candidate than getting an effective campaign together.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those same opinion polls show Melenchon’s voters in Round 2 splitting 50-50 between Le Pen and Macron; while Hamon’s’ voters split 2/3 Macron and 1/3 Le Pen.
    I agree that mathematically adding M’s votes to H’s votes produces a Round 1 winning number, but …
    Of course you’re right about the shambles that is The Left.
    Your highlighting the admirable choice of date for Fillon’s summons gives me an unequalled opportunity once again to pray in aid – even more appropriately than in my earlier post – this excellent contribution to Great Moments in British Cinematic Humour:


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