Sunday, 19 January 2014

Personal is Political

In the good old days when party politics was really taking off, one of the phrases or slogans to stick in my mind was - the personal is political.

Now different people will have their own take on what these words mean, but to me their meaning was always clear - that it was completely hypocritical for political activists to portray themselves in public as progressive, left-wing and all round good socialists - if in private they were really tyrants, bullies, sexists pigs, wife beaters and/or violent to their children.   

In other words, if you want to bang on about dignity, respect, equality and fairness - then you could not afford to live a double life, you had to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

I thought back to these times when I first heard about the embarrassing behaviour of the French President, Francois Hollande, because he is the second big name Socialist in France to make his party look ridiculous in recent years - the other being Dominic Strauss-Khan (DSK) who was widely known as the 'hot bunny' (chaud lapin) for his philandering lifestyle.

In a recent press conference, President Hollande insisted that his personal problems are a private matter and a tame press corps let the philandering President off the hook by giving him an easy ride - instead of pressing the President to explain how his behaviour could ever be consistent with his political beliefs.

The French press also looked the other way when it came to the Tom-catting behaviour of DSK - maybe because they are all at it as well, who knows.  

So, I'm glad I live in the UK where people are entitled to their privacy, but where politicians are not allowed to get away with being completely two-faced.

President Hollande visits partner Trierweiler in hospital

Valerie Trierweiler (R) was taken to hospital after allegations of the affair emerged

President Hollande has visited First Lady Valerie Trierweiler in hospital for the first time since reports of his alleged affair broke last week.

Ms Trierweiler was admitted to hospital, apparently in shock after learning of the reports.

Closer magazine first published details of Mr Hollande's link with French actress Julie Gayet last Friday.

The magazine has further alleged that the affair began during the 2012 presidential race.

Ms Gayet says she is suing Closer for breach of privacy, seeking 50,000 euros (£41,000; $68,000) in damages and 4,000 euros in legal costs.

'Difficult moment'

Francois Hollande visited his partner in hospital for the first time on Thursday evening, the Elysee Palace confirmed on Friday, without giving further details.

Ms Trierweiler, 48, was admitted to hospital last Friday - hours after the first revelations made by Closer magazine.

In an apparent defence of Mr Hollande's character, Ms Trierweiler reportedly spoke to a radio journalist earlier on Thursday to explain that he had been told to stay away from the hospital by doctors.

The journalist said she was told Mr Hollande had sent flowers and chocolates and had met the team that is looking after Ms Trierweiler.

The first lady said she was "very tired to the point of not being able to stand up", and had been suffering from low blood pressure and low morale but was determined to leave hospital with her head held high.

In response to the reports, a source at the Elysee Palace said Mr Hollande was "not unhappy" about the hospital forbidding him to visit.

French media have claimed that Ms Trierweiler suffered an anxiety attack last week, but her friends have played down her condition.

BBC's Chris Morris hears the views of residents in Tulle where the president forged his political career

Le Point magazine quoted a friend of Ms Trierweiler as saying she had taken "one pill too many", but had not tried to commit suicide.

At his annual news conference on Tuesday at the Elysee to discuss his political agenda, Mr Hollande was asked questions about the alleged affair.

Mr Hollande, 59, said he was experiencing a "difficult moment" in his private life but refused to answer questions over the report in Closer, saying "private matters should be dealt with privately".

Timeline: Hollande's partners
  • 1988: Francois Hollande meets Valerie Trierweiler, she a journalist, he a Socialist Party MP with a steady partner, Segolene Royal
  • Family years: Trierweiler raises three children with second husband, while Hollande raises four with his unmarried partner, Royal
  • November 2007: Trierweiler announces she is Hollande's new partner, six months after he leaves Royal, who has just been defeated as the Socialist presidential candidate
  • Early 2012: Hollande allegedly begins affair with actress Julie Gayet, who has two children from her first marriage to Santiago Amigorena
  • May 2012: Trierweiler, still officially Hollande's unmarried partner, becomes first lady of France after his victory in the presidential election
  • June 2013: Trierweiler wins damages of 10,000 euros (£8,300: $13,675) from authors of The Troublemaker, a book that made allegations about her private life before Hollande's election
  • January 2014: Trierweiler is admitted to hospital after Closer publishes a report on Hollande's alleged affair with Gayet, accompanied by photos
Nor would he clarify whether Ms Trierweiler was still first lady before a February trip to the US.


In its latest revelations, Closer magazine said the president and Julie Gayet had been having a "turbulent romance" for two years - during and after Mr Hollande's election campaign.

It said the French president used a second apartment in the west of Paris to meet the 41-year-old actress.

And it also claimed that Mr Hollande made excuses to avoid a holiday in Greece last year with Ms Trierweiler so he could travel instead to his Correze constituency with Ms Gayet.

Closer's seven-page report on the alleged affair last Friday showed photos of a man in a crash helmet on a moped, said to be Mr Hollande, visiting an apartment building near the Elysee Palace.

Ms Gayet is shown at the building in a separate photo.

Mr Hollande has not denied the story, though he did briefly threaten to sue the magazine for invasion of privacy.

Public reaction to the issue has been muted.

Christian Fraser
BBC News, Paris

It is certainly true that the French public are more tolerant of the president's indiscretions than the English speaking world, but it's fanciful to suggest they are not as interested.

Of course they are.

Closer magazine sold out in a morning when it broke this story. It printed 150,000 extra copies which sold in equally quick time.

And whatever French people admit when they are questioned by pollsters, the public are lapping it up. Today the papers have more to fill their column inches.

There is speculation this affair was on-going when Hollande was running for high office. The French politician Rachida Dati says people "don't want their politicians opening their bedroom or toilet doors". Maybe. But there are genuine areas for concern.

The president's judgement, his security, his agenda at a time of crisis, perhaps even his hypocrisy? Is this still the "exemplary presidency" he promised?

Made in Manhattan (12 December 2012)

So Dominic Strauss-Khan (DSK) - former big cheese at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - has finally met his Waterloo by settling a civil suit brought by a New York chambermaid - Nafissatou Diallo - whom he was of sexually assauting back in May 2011.

DSK - who is now 63 - did not attend court in person, but the settlement is reported to be in the region of $6 million. 

Now this is an interesting case because it illustrates the great difficulty of bringing a successful complaint of sexual assault or rape under the criminal law - in any jurisdiction.

Because sexual predators make a point of attacking their victims - when there are no other witnesses present - whatever else they are, they are not stupid.

And the criminal law often places great weight on the need for independent third-party witness evidence - or corroboration as it's normally referred to in the courts.

DSK's of course did not deny that a sexual encounter took place - but his defence was that it was entirely consensual and that the low paid Manthattan chambermaid had no cause for complaint.

But the rules of evidence in civil courts are quite different - the deciding factors are the weight of the evidence and the credibility of any witnesses - primarily the accused and accuser.

So in the cold light of day DSK and his lawyers decided that his ridiculous defence would not stand up to serious scrutiny - and he settled without the case coming to trial.

Given the low success rate in criminal prosecutions for rape and sexual assault - it's suprising to me that more civil suits are not brought by the victims of such crimes.

Because were it not for the threat of a civil suit against DSK in New York - the old goat might actually have escaped Scot-free - worse still he might have become the leader of the French Socialist Party and now be sitting pretty as the President of France - in place of the present incumbent, Francois Hollande . 

The Lynx Effect (29 March 2012)

So justice finally seems to be catching up with Dominique Straus-Khan - or DSK for short.

The famous French 'socialist' politician and former head of the IMF - has been charged by the authorities in France over his alleged involvement in an organised prostitution ring - see post below from 22 February 2012.

Meanwhile the chambermaid - Nafissatou Diallo - whom DSK is alleged to have sexually assaulted in a swanky New York hotel - has begun civil proceedings over the incident.

DSK (62) admits there was an 'incident' by the way - but that it was completely consensual - presumably because the chambermaid was simply overwhelmed (while at work) by the well known charms of this irresistible French lothario.

Now I would have thought that a 'man of the world' like DSK - would find it slightly odd that he walks into a 'party' with naked women all around - just dying to meet him.

But apparently not - apparently this happens all the time to DSK.

I wonder what his secret is - maybe he's been taking those TV adverts too seriously - you know the ones I mean?

The one where the chap covers himself with Lynx body spray - and all the women around just can't help themselves.

Watch the following You Tube clip and decide for yourself - maybe DSK will use this in his defence:

I can't wait to see.

Charming Old Goat (22 February 2012)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) - the old goat who was until recently head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington - was questioned yesterday by French police as a suspect in a prostitution ring inquiry.

In a far cry from his glory days DSK - at one time favourite to become the socialist candidate in the French presidential elections - was held in custody at a police station in Lille.

Police have already interviewed a number of prostitutes - who have admitted having sex with DSK - but this man of the world and notorious womaniser insists he did not know that the women were prostitutes.

Strauss Khan's lawyer - issued a preposterous challenge to the ranks of the media who were there to witness yet another DSK fall from grace:

"I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman" - lawyer Henri Leclerc told French television.

Charming is what I would say to that - and completely disingenuous of course - as if DSK had stumbled unexpectedly and innocently into a organised prostitution ring.

Because what else did he think was going on - why else would a strange and presumably attractive young woman - start taking of her clothes in front of 62-year-old DSK - unless she was being handsomely paid.

Maybe he likes to delude himself that his amazing wit and repartee - left the ladies spellbound and meant they found him utterly irresistible.

But he should try telling that to his wife - Anne Sinclair - to whom he has been happily married for years - allegedly.

Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the IMF in May last year - after he was charged with the attempted rape of a hotel maid in New York.

The criminal charges were subsequently dropped by prosecutors - but the woman involved has vowed to bring a civil suit.

You Heard It Here First (1 August 2011)

I wrote something the other day about the Dominique Strauss-Khan affair - and suggested that the New York chambermaid - Nafissatou Diallo - should sue her alleged attacker in the civil courts.

See post dated 27 July 2011 - Maid in Manhattan.

The following day the BBC reports that this might be exactly what happens to the case - if public prosecutor does not press ahead with criminal charges.

DSK has had to admit there was a sexual encounter in his hotel bedroom - because of DNA evidence - but his defence is that this was completely consensual.

Without explaining of course how such an event might occur - given the huge gulf in age, power and wealth - between the Head of the International Monetary Fund and a low paid chambermaid.

But that's what DSK's lawyers are paid for - to keep him out of the witness stand and prevent their client from having to explain his actions.

The next court date is 23 August 2011 - let's see what happens then.      

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Maid 'may file civil suit' - BBC 28 July 2011

"The hotel maid who accuses ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape may file a civil suit if prosecutors do not press criminal charges, her lawyer says.

The Manhattan district attorney's office has publicly announced they had doubts about the credibility of Nafissatou Diallo's allegations.

Making her first public appearance, Ms Diallo spoke of the pain the case had caused her and her family.

Mr Strauss-Kahn has denied the charges.

"What she wants is justice and if the prosecutors are not going to bring this case to trial then we have to look for justice and what I look forward to is putting this case before a jury," Ms Diallo's lawyer, Kenneth Thompson told a news conference.

When pressed by journalists when he might launch this case, he said: "Soon. Soon is soon."

On Wednesday, Ms Diallo and Mr Thompson met prosecutors for eight hours."

Maid in Manhattan - 27 July 2011

The hotel worker who claims she was sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Khan (62) - former head of the IMF - has spoken out and told her side of the story for the first time.

Nafissatou Diallo (32) waived her right to anonymity by giving interviews to Newsweek magazine and ABC news - and providing details of the alleged attack that took place in DSK's hotel bedroom.

The accuser is an immigrant worker from Guinea - a woman of course - earning $15 dollars an hour in her job as a hotel chambermaid.

The accused - DSK - is one of the most powerful men in the world - a global statesman and potential candidate in the French presidential elections - or at least he was until this affair.

Now the abuse of power involved should be clear for everyone to see - even if the sexual encounter involved was consensual - which is DSK's defence.

But instead of facing up to the reality of the old goat's behaviour - his wealthy wife stands by him - along with many of his 'comrades' in the French Socialist party.

Now I can't think of a good reason why a 32-year old woman in a respectable job - would proposition a 62-year old man - she had just met for the very first time.

The maid's story makes sense to me - and I'm sure to many other people as well.

But DSK will rely on the fact that there were no witnesses to these events (there seldom are) - and he has hired the best lawyers money can buy to present his defence.

Just like OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson.

So celebrity justice might prevail in the end - in which case the maid should sue him in civil court - where the standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities.

Either way DSK is finished as a public figure - which is what he deserves.

And those in the French establishment who have been turning a blind eye to his behaviour - including his wife - should be ashamed of themselves."