In view of the latest scandal involving a French politician, or in this case, a would-be French politician, no one could claim that life is always far less interesting than art. And it also goes to show that life can be just as outrageously clichéd as art: a naked Frenchman chases a chambermaid down the corridor to give her one. As one of our homegrown male Glenda Slaggs would put it: you couldn’t make it up. Incidentally, foreign readers who are rather baffled by my second reference in as many days to Glenda Slagg can go here to find out who she is.
By comparison with the latest Gallic misdemeanour, our current British scandal is pretty small beer. In fact, I feel honour-bound to describe it as a ‘scandal’ it is so pathetically unexciting: several years ago a leading Lib Dem politician got someone else to take the rap when he was caught speeding so he could avoid being banned from driving for six months. Shocked? No, I didn’t think so, but to be on the safe side, I’d best stick in an ‘allegedly’ – he ‘allegedly’ asked someone else to take the rap – Lord, I think I’m going to sleep. (Slightly off-topic – Q: Why did New York get all the crooks and Washington all the lawyers? A: New York had first choice. Having said that, if I had my time all over again, I think I should have tried for the law. But back to my comparative analysis of scandal and how French rationalist scandals beat our British empirical scandals into a cocked hat.)
Depending on how po-faced you are, the French scandal tends to make you smile and eager for further details, while the British ‘scandal’ simply makes you yawn and turn the page of your newspaper in search of last year’s shipping forecast. Certainly, for the chambermaid involved, who is claiming the randy Frenchman actually tried to rape her, it cannot at all have been amusing, but the rest of us are such salacious beasts who are only too delighted to read of the misfortune’s of others that I’m sure we can square it with our sensitivities when we burst out laughing reading the details.
Both scandals – i.e. the one scandal and the other ‘scandal’ – are shot through with the irony that what did or did not happen is way less important than the implications of possible consequences. For the randy Frenchman, who I gather is described as a chaud lapin
A second complication which could also have rather more far-reaching consequences than is at first apparent is the question of who will be Strauss-Kahn’s successor. For Dominique had already handed in his notice and was due to leave the MD’s job at the IMF in four weeks in order to start preparing for the big one. And his deputy is also due to leave. Given the delicate nature of the various bailouts, it would suit Europe if the IMF, which is coughing up some of the money, were led by a European. This one is always a ticklish problem as many non-Europeans get rather shirty about the job invariably going to a white honky. Now those who demand the new MD should not be a European have a far stronger hand. Trouble is, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is due to host the next G45 meeting (or is it G7, no G8? No, of course G20), thinks he will look rather foolish if the IMF doesn’t have a European in charge when everyone gathers for drinks and canapés at the Elysee Palace. And French presidents don’t like looking foolish, especially if they are only 5ft tall and are invariably towered over by everyone else except North Africans.
This blog’s France correspondents haven’t yet been in touch to inform me of the mood in the street, but I think the days are over when a Frenchman who is caught with his trousers down
Pictured is a chambermaid much like the kind Dominique Strauss-Kahn apparently finds quite irresistible
. . .
There are rather dire implications in our very own ‘scandal’. No one actually gives a flying fuck whether or not the politician involved, a rather oily chap called Christopher Huhne (pictured below with his wife Vicky) did or did not ask someone else to
Well, what with this ‘scandal’, that would seem to leave Chris out of the running to oust Cleggy, and I just can’t see the faithful taking tippy-toes Cable seriously as an assassin (who reputedly never get the crown anyway), which would leave Cleggy pretty much still in place.
There is one more Lib Dem troublemaker doing the rounds with both eyes on the leadership, one Simon Hughes, who also long ago had ambitions to head up the party, but nothing ever seemed to go right for him on that score. For one thing, for a while he denied being gay, which didn’t go down well with the Lib Dems who don’t mind a gay one little bit, but then came clean and said that although he wasn’t actually gay, he did bat for both sides if and when. That went down even less well, not because the Lib Dems mind a chap or chappess batting for both sides, but they were rather miffed that he didn’t come clean from the outset. There is also a very horrible story I was told about Simon Hughes, but it is so disgusting that I have decided not to believe it and shan’t recount it here.
I should imagine that the only one laughing his socks off at Chris Huhne’s discomfiture is David Cameron, who really is getting a lucky ride. Things were getting a little hairy for David before the speeding ‘scandal’ blew up in as far as Huhne, a Cabinet minister, was causing all sorts of trouble in Cabinet and generally gaining brownie points with the disaffected Lib Dems who want to see the fucking Tories get a fucking bloody nose. (‘Bloody toff scum! Bastards!) Now, he is utterly neutralised, and it looks as though he will stay that way. So David can stick with young Cleggy who despite promising to ‘get tough’ with the Tories (‘I’m going to bloody well start swearing and banging my fist on the table and that kind of thing! You just wait! I’m not nice, I’m really not!) and put into practice something he calls ‘muscular liberalism’ (which sounds so phoney, I can’t even think of a joke. Well, I can but I’m not going to waste it on crap like that).
The Lib Dems are, of course, a goldmine for the Cameron. Without them, he couldn’t have formed a government and that keeps his right-wing in place for the time being. But it also means that all the crap that’s going down over the cuts can be shared with the Lib Dems. In fact, the Lib Dems can be made to carry more than their fair share in such underhand behaviour — bloody Tory toffs roaming the country snatching the bread from the mouths of babes in arms — is quite naturally only to be expected from the Conservatives but not from theose nice fluffy Lib Dems. So when the Lib Dems are guilty of that kind of behaviour, it is twice as bad. (At this point it is worth repeating a comment overheard by one political commentator at last September’s Lib Dem annual conference six months in to the Coalition government. My Lib Dems were very unhappy indeed about their party jumping into bed with those nasty Tory toffs, and one delegate was heard to complain bitterly: ‘I didn’t vote Liberal Democrat to form the government.’ That says it all, really.) So Cameron doesn’t have to do half of all the things the Tory right want him today, excusing himself by saying the Lib Dems won’t stand for it. And he can more or less dictate to the Lib Dems what he does want to do because they know that this is their first sniff at real power in more than 80 years and they don’t want to blow it. In fact, they already have: at the local government elections two weeks ago they were utterly hammered. So as far as they are concerned let the Coalition continue, because if it collapsed and there were a general election, they would no longer have 50/60 seats as they have been accustomed to, but would be back down into almost single figures as they once were when they were nothing but a joke. Actually, from where I sit, they still are a joke, but that’s another entry. Right, I’m off to chase a chambermaid or two.
. . .
And so it goes on, with the euro lurching from dire straits to outright danger, all brought about because the rescuers can’t agree on the right thing to do. They are all agreed that those feckless Greeks most definitely need another several billions in handouts to ensure the country doesn’t grind to a halt. The problem is that the Germans (and I must declare I find them a rather more practical folk when it comes to economic efficiency than some of the other wallies abroad in Europe) who will be coughin up most of the rescue cash are insisting that the ‘plan’ - the Greeks must pull in their belts, cut wages and generally ensure everyone has a miserable existence while their debt is paid off - must be fine-tuned, or even tuned and not so finely. They are in favour of changing the terms of the debt repayment and allowing the Greeks a greater latitude in how they get the money as long as in time the debt is paid off. No sir! say the hardliners from the European Central Bank: forget about debt restructuring, just pull in your belts even more! This alarms the Germans who believe that it will simply piss off the Greeks who will get to the point where they simply say ‘sod this for a game of soldiers, we’re off’, leave the euro and revive the drachma. And they have a point. For one thing, the Greeks could solve their economic problems at a stroke by devaluing the drachma (which would mean loads of cheap Greek island holidays for the hard-pressed Brits who like nothing better than getting takned up on ouzo and shagging a couple of slags from Nottingham), and relaxing once more. It’s at this point, of course, that the ideal of a universal brotherhood of right-thinking Europeans will be put to the test. And, I am rather certain, fail. Institutions can count themselves to be a success when they weather the bad times. The EU was hunky-dory when times were good (an illusion, we now know, built on excessive consumer borrowing and unrealistic cheap Chinese imports, but now the seas have got considerably rougher, the good ship is leaking like a sieve. Now there’s a surprise.