Jolly though it is to see a politician in a tangle – and jollier still if it’s a French politician – I think our interest in Francois Hollande’s comings and goings is more than curtain-tweaking prurience. In fact, I think it’s actually justified.
The view when one of our own politicians is caught out being naughty is that, if he/she is lying to his/her nearest and dearest, what does that say for their basic integrity? Will they not, more shamelessly than other politicos, lie to US about stuff too? Not where they were at whatever time with whom, of course, but about potentially more important issues like expenses, the economy, whether or not there are any WMDs lying about, and so on.
As anyone who’s had an affair knows, it’s hard work. You have to stay one step ahead of your suspicious spouse, yet be at the feet of your paramour. It’s complicated, it’s exhilarating, quite frankly it’s all consuming. In the heady grip of passion, my interest in unemployment figures and industrial performance drops from zero to a new low point, only reachable by prolonged and intensive excavation, which, of course, I am too busy lying and swooning to organise. If Francois Hollande can duck and dive around Paris on a scooter to reach his love object and still give the slightest toss about France’s deficit figures, then he’s multitasking in a way that most women couldn’t manage, let alone men.
The French public may feel it’s irrelevant what their President gets up to in his free time. But should he be having free time at all? ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ – that’s the way we like our leaders. Worrying, and doing the job. We went off David Cameron a lot when we heard he was addicted to Fruit Ninja, didn’t we? How did he find the time to play silly games when he was supposed to be protecting our interests 24/7? But at least he wasn’t tearing through London in a bike helmet, humiliating his official partner.
It seems as though Hollande’s private life has been a mess since he walked out on the mother of his four children for a woman who went on to tweet nastily about his ex. Now she has checked into a clinic with ‘exhaustion’, for which read rage and heartbreak. The French are still insisting that private life is completely separate from public duty. But the last time they had a leader who neglected the economy so thoroughly, his head ended up in a basket. Hollande should probably keep his helmet on – at all times.