by Stephen Tall on January 14, 2014
The President of France, Francois Hollande, held a a long-planned news conference today to launch policies to help France’s struggling economy. Along with cuts to government spending, he plans a ‘responsibility pact’ to incentivise firms to hire workers, and… oh, I’m sorry, am I boring you? You’re only interested in his liaisons dangereuses, the reported affair he’s having with the actress who is not his First Lady? If so, then you’ve a lot in common with UK journalists…
And that's it! Next question on economy. The French media are a collective disgrace
— Tim Shipman (Mail) (@ShippersUnbound) January 14, 2014
One lame question. Now we're onto whether he's a social liberal or social democrat. Where's the Westminster lobby when u need it #Hollande
— Jon Sopel (@BBCJonSopel) January 14, 2014
Makes me proud that this kind of grandiose windbaggery would be laughed out of town here, not genuflected to. #Hollande
— Janan Ganesh (@JananGanesh) January 14, 2014
#Hollande 'This is not the place, it is not the time…'. And then a man in a scarf asks about the reponsibility pact. France is weird.
— Alastair Stewart (@alstewitn) January 14, 2014
Yes, I guess France is “weird”, Alastair Stewart. After all, according to a poll published Sunday, 77% of French voters reckoned their President’s love life was nobody’s business but his own (and presumably his partner(s)).
Of course, it’s an interesting story, if you like gossip (and who doesn’t like at least some?). A story in which the French head of state’s alleged affair is revealed in part because his bodyguard delivers the couple fresh croissants the morning after is too delicious to ignore altogether.
And yes, there is at least some public interest defence. After all, the French First Lady – currently in hospital, apparently with les blues – has a publicly funded staff of five, as well as the use of official residences.
But the intensity of interest among our hacks in the French President’s private affairs is typically, grubbily, pruriently British.
I’ve written here before about my opposition to Leveson-style state-backed regulation of the press so it irritates me to see fellow anti-Levesonites like Andrew Neil tweet, “Is this what a Leveson-compliant press looks like?”
It shouldn’t take a judge or MPs to point out to journalists that, whatever legitimate questions there might be about Hollande’s affaires horizontales that maybe, just maybe, there are other, more important issues.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.