French Liberalism for Good or Bad

Nicholas Sarkozy’s name keeps cropping up these days in a variety of ways.

His first wife, to the astonishment of many people, has come to his defence lately and seems to bear him no grudge about the failure of their marriage. In fact, she appears well disposed towards Carla Bruni and has visited her on many an occasion.

On the other hand, as if to keep his name in print, two of his glamorous political protégées are having an open cat fight.

Both were propelled by the former French president into powerful ministerial posts. However, a bitter rivalry has long festered between the ‘Sarkozettes’: Rachida Dati and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, according to a new biography of Ms Dati.

The daughter of North African immigrants, Ms Dati, forty-six, grew up on a rough housing estate in Burgundy with ten brothers and sisters that her father, a bricklayer, struggled to support. Ms Kosciusko-Morizet, forty, comes from a family with a long and illustrious political pedigree. Her father was a mayor, her grandfather served as an ambassador in Washington and she traces her ancestry back to Lucretia Borgia, the femme fatale of Italian Renaissance politics.

According to the book by Elizabeth Chavelet, a senior editor of Paris Match, the two elegant but sharp-tongued political stars ‘detest each other’.

‘Rachida can’t stand  that daughter of a rich family… with her speeches devoid of ideas, who’s never worked, not even to buy herself a cup of coffee,’ a close associate of Ms Dati is quoted as saying of Ms Kosciusko-Morizet, who elbowed Ms Dati aside to become the Paris mayoral candidate of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Ms Dati, who is now mayor of the prosperous 7th arrondissement of Paris, is a member of the European Parliament and a deputy leader of the UMP, and is petite but pugnacious. She loves boxing and her sparring partner, Constance Benqué, the head of Lagardére Global Advertising, is quoted as saying: ‘When I’m worn out and ready to call an ambulance, Rachida’s ready for more.’

The author describes the ‘Dati method’ as ‘a blend of seduction and violence’, which explains why the book is titled Rachida never Dies.

It relates her long-running feud with Geoffroy Didier, a fellow EMP member and Sarkozy supporter who she once threatened outside the Elysée Palace, saying: ‘Do you want me to break your chins?’ While the book offers some explanation of why Mr Sarkozy and Ms Dati became close, the former French president in 2010 said that appointing her as Justice Minister too soon was ‘the greatest human resources error I made’. Ms Dati was hated by the judiciary who believed that she did not have a grasp of legal issues and was also seen as an intellectual lightweight.

However, Ms Chavelet writes that Mr Sarkozy and Ms Dati have plenty in common. ‘They both love bling and money. They resemble each other a lot. To some extent she is the diamond of the Sarkozy generation. She’s his creature.’

French politics have always intrigued me. Every president of France that I can recall, with the exception of General de Gaulle, has been a magnet for women irrespective of age, size, looks or, for that matter, intellect. The charisma has always been the Office. Even President Hollande has women fighting for him and that’s hard to imagine.

I once asked Édith Cresson, an ex-prime minister of France who at one time was rumoured to be President Mitterrand’s mistress, what it was that made the French public tolerant to the sexual peccadilloes of their presidents. It didn’t take her long to retort, without raising an eyelid, that everybody understands canoodling with women is a perk that goes with the job.

That’s what I would call a liberal society gone crackers, to the ultimate delight of those men in power – particularly in France.

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One response to “French Liberalism for Good or Bad

  1. Is it really a liberal society gone crackers or is this a reflection of most societies in varying degrees ?