It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a newly-anointed leader of a (once) major political Party – who runs France’s 2nd largest Regional Council (7.9 million people) in his spare time – should want to spend a few surplus hours passing on ‘non-Party-political’ wisdom (Note: NOT bullshit) to tomorrow’s elites at a leading Business School.
So it came to pass that Républicains’ Party leader – inestimably smug and right-wing Laurent Wauquiez – got deliciously (and deservedly) stung last Thursday. His supposedly ‘apolitical’ reflections in a University course on ‘Major societal and geopolitical challenges’ were recorded … and then broadcast on peak-time TV. The ensuing 48 hour furore got extended when further recordings emerged three days later.
All so wonderfully unfair. Wauquiez had done (nearly) all the right things. He’d clearly ticked the box marked ‘Publicity? No thanks.’ He’d begun by stating that everything he said was, of course, strictly confidential. There were to be no notes, no filming, no tweeting … no nothing. Otherwise, he said, he’d just deliver the students the ‘bullshit’ [sic] he regularly served up when interviewed on telly.
Who’d have thought a student at prestigious Lyon Business School could be so wicked as to gainsay such a towering political figure? Especially when Wauquiez’s presentation had been puffed by Lyon Business School (in their email heralding the course) as ‘an excellent opportunity for an exchange of ideas with an actor-observer who’s well-informed on the major issues of the day’.
Wauquiezien ‘bullshit’ oozed effortlessly onto an anonymous recording device:
- during the Presidential Election, Macron put in place a ‘demolition unit’ against Républicains contender Fillon and the whole Fillon Fake Jobs Affair had been organised elsewhere [Did Fillon actually need help self-destructing?]
- Angela Merkel – ‘Do you think she represents authority? She lacks ‘charisma’
- President Sarkozy bugged his Ministers’ portable phones – and once they left their Council of Ministers meetings, Sarkozy ‘would read their emails and SMSs and check out what they were all saying’
- ‘Have you seen [Macron’s En Marche Party] puppets … all voting the same way. If anyone dares disagree they’re beaten with a baton. There are no checks and balances in France. Hence there’s a total dictatorship in France’ [Leaders of the Right traditionally do NOT bad-mouth de Gaulle’s 5th Republic]
- Juppé [Mayor of Bordeaux and (just) fellow-Républicain] – ‘an eminently respectable person … he broke the bank [in Bordeaux] by sending taxes, public expenditure and debt through the roof’
- Pécresse [leader of France’s largest Region and (just) fellow-Républicain] – ‘how many conneries [stupid bullshit things] can she do’
Je ne regrette (almost) rien
Greater sin hath no Républicain than this: that any Républicain should traduce The Blessed Sarkozy.
Even before heavy threats of ‘legal action’, accusations against non-existent ‘journalistic ethics’, condemnations of ‘illegal recordings’ and smears of ‘bribery’ could be articulated by Républicain Party heavyweights, Wauthiez rushed SarkoHotlinewards.
‘There was never any question’, mealy-mouthed Wauquiez, ‘of my believing that [President Sarkozy] was checking up on members of his Government’. Person(s) close to the ex-President initially reported Sarko as having ‘noted’ Wauquiez’s ‘apology’, while for good measure ‘formally denying the grotesque hacking story’.
Wauquiez may have thought he’d toughed it out with last night’s interview on BFM TV. He was the victim. A plot by ‘media bullies’. ‘Four days of surrealist media outcry’. What he’d said to the students he’d say in public, with different language. The TV channel which had played the tape was being reported to the TV regulator. Etc etc.
Just one teensy (but oh-so-important) regret. What he’d said about The Ex-President. He told BFM TV ‘That’s the only part I regret, and I really regret it. I’ve presented my apologies to Nicolas Sarkozy. It was only a rumour. I never seriously thought Ministers were being bugged … I regret that mistake.’
But following Yesterday always comes Today. A heavyweight blow to The Smug Smiler. Satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé has the verbatim Sarko-Wauquiez chat … even if that journal’s not often the official outlet for Sarko’s Utterances.
Hell hath no fury like a Sarko scorned. ‘I demolished him … he’s crashed and burned’, Sarko said to friends. While Sarko said direct to Wauquiez:
- ‘You have ambitions to be President. If I were you I’d find another job’
- ‘Lots of people told me you were nothing more than a grosse merde. Today I have no choice other than to agree with them’
- ‘When I see that now you’re Party leader you begin like that, I say to myself that you’ll not go far’.
Few Républicains defended Wauquiez’s weird remarks. Certain former Party members attacked mercilessly. Xavier Bertrand (President of the Hauts de France Region) is The Man Who Self-Identifies As A Potential Not-So-Right-Wing Presidential Standard-Bearer. He said the discourse was ‘worse than Trump’ and characterised Wauquiez’s remarks as ‘possibly coming from a Le Pen family member: the same tone, the same violence’. Bertrand went on: ‘One of the reasons I left the [Républicain Party] is exactly this violence, this cynicism about politics. I couldn’t put up with it any more’. Others (eg Bussereau, President of the Charente Maritime Department) took a couple of days to throw away their membership cards.
Spot The Difference Between Hard Right Wauquiez and Ultra Hard Right Le Pen
Correct. One wears glasses.
Nothing to see here, move along folks
The Républicains Party ploughed ahead regardless this week with their first big campaign since Wauquiez’s election.
Half a million lucky households will soon get their very own cost of living leaflet: ‘With Macron, you’re the one who pays the bill. This year: Government expenditure up €7.3 bn; Household taxes up €4.5 bn’ with examples of worse-off households. For those wanting the full panoply of those worse off under Macron, the Républicain Party’s website has sprung into full technicolour life. [Note: they’ve removed their problem of having no events to announce by deleting the diary section entirely]
For those wanting incontrovertible proof that Républicains – despite impressions to the contrary – have a clearly tangible sense of humour, just glance at the name of the restaurant giving out the expensive bill. Boom, boom.
And since the cost of living has become one of France’s greatest concerns, why not extra focus on it.
Can Wauquiez survive? Just as he was seemingly doing rather well. 2 bye-elections won … and almost certainly more on the way. His poll numbers beginning to climb. Ah hubris. Or is this indeed all a deliberate gamble on the Trumpicisation of France? Will the reverse of distant Jupiteresqe Macron be what’s sought of the next President?
Next Wauquiez course at Lyon Business School? March 16-17. To apply: http://bba.em-lyon.com/fre/account/create/Global-BBA/apply
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the murky Ultra Hard Right forest
The Man Who Credits Himself With Creating Le Pen’s Success launched his very own ‘Patriots’ Party. Philippot, for so long Le Pen’s N° 2, stood before enthusiastic extremists – unoriginally chanting ‘Philippot Président’. He vaunted the virtues of ‘leaving the European Union, effecting a Frexit and not trying to make our fellow-citizens believe we’ll reform Europe’. Fresh from his success at having got under 2% of the electors at 2 bye-elections to vote ‘Patriot’, he’ll doubtless succeed in persuading a few hundred FN malcontents to support his non-growing movement.
A handful of disappearing ‘Patriots’ surely further dents the chances of the Front National regaining momentum, as it fails to deal with the ever-continuing Marine Le Pen leadership crisis. The prospective Party name-change was recently condemned by Jean-Marie Le Pen to be a ‘betrayal of the movement’s history’; he urged the membership to reject any name-change, as well as Party rule-changes, at their 10/11 March Congress.
Jamais deux sans trois (as is said when negative things come in threes). Never forget Marine Le Pen’s niece. The then-youngest sitting Deputy, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen – from the vigorously ‘national’ side of their national-socialist movement – withdrew from public life pre-Presidential Election. Now She’s Back. She’s off to Maryland, USA to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Tomorrow, after 40 minutes of Vice-President Mike Pence, and a round table ‘Do Not Pass Go! How Government is Killing Capitalism’ there’s a 10 minute address by Maréchal-Le Pen, of whom it’s been said
- ‘A rising star’ (Mr S Bannon, formerly of Washington Parish)
- ‘She reminds me of Joan of Arc’ (Ms S Palin ‘next door neighbour’ to Russia)
Trump’s there the following day. And if Trump’s there, can Farage be far behind? He appropriately brings up the rear.
And the President amid all this?
Although theoretically benefiting from chaos to the right of him, his poll figures are consistently down between 4-6 points, as his hyperactive Government proceeds on all fronts to ‘modernise’ just about everything (public servants/the final school exam, the Bacallaureat/hospitals/community policing/apprenticeships and training/asylum and immigration/constitutional reform/public service broadcasting/national service/Europe … and, at least as tricky as any other, the status of the state railway company SNCF and its employees)