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Eye on France: Keeping it in the family

Back to school: French First Lady, Brigitte Macron.
Back to school: French First Lady, Brigitte Macron. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Today we turn the spotlight on the contrasting destinies of two French political families, the Macrons and the Fillons.


On one hand, you have President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, he in the news for his efforts to stem the tide of Yellow Vest anger, she returning to school to teach French to fifty unemployed, unqualified adults in a north Paris suburb.

And then there’s François and Penelope Fillon, he a former prime minister, she a former well-paid parliamentary assistant who doesn’t appear to have done much, or even any, assisting. They will appear before a criminal court later this year.

François is accused of misusing public funds, plotting to defraud the state, abusing his elected position and failing to correctly declare his financial status.

Penelope faces charges of aiding and abetting a plot to defraud the state, as well as of receiving stolen public funds.

Conspiracy? What conspiracy?

Laurent Joffrin, the boss of the left-leaning daily paper Libération writes about the second couple, the Fillons.

In an article headlined “The imaginary conspiracy,” Joffrin reminds us that, once Fillon’s dubious methods for assuring the financial stability of his household had been revealed, the man who was a horse-racing certainty to win the 2016 presidential election immediately cried foul and went down like an Italian footballer.

A week is a long time in politics

He deplored the activities of a so-called "star chamber" in the presidential palace under François Hollande, a coterie of journalists, judges, influential businesspersons and Uncle Tom Cobbly, all working in the murky depths to soil the shining name of Fillon and prevent the great man’s irresistible rise to the top job.

He promised to drag those responsible before the courts of the Republic and make them pay for their heinous crimes.

That was then.

Now, it is poor old François himself who’ll be getting dragged, judicially speaking. And his promises of revelation and revenge sound petulant and pretentious.

The charge sheet against the couple runs to 150 pages.

François and Penelope Fillon, needless to remark, remain innocent until proven otherwise.

A First Lady's work is never done!

Which brings us back to the other couple, Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron.

Whether he will pass his oral examination later today remains to be seen. But Brigitte is certainly top of the class of her own.

According to the weekly magazine Le Point, the French First Lady is the head of the teachers’ committee for an organization called Live, from the virtually untranslatable French Institut des vocations pour l’emploi, something like the institute of vocations for jobs, which is not a great deal of help. But who’s going to let the meaning get in the way of a great acronym? Live it is.

The students are those who slipped through the net the first time around, and left school without any papers to prove they were ever there.

They will study English, Maths, French and History, and will be paid for doing it. They’ll also learn how to negotiate a professional interview, and elaborate a personal career plan.

 French teacher looks familiar?

Among their French teachers will be none other than Madame Macron herself, whose degree of participation remains to be clarified. She may teach once every two weeks, or once a month. Which will be no problem for a woman who was a full-time secondary teacher of French until 2015.

Brigitte Macron has, apparently, taken her inspiration from the Second Chance movement which trains 15,000 young adults every year, and she already supports eight centres run by the chef Thierry Marx where young job-seekers are given a taste of life in a professional kitchen.

Right-wing Le Figaro says the move back into part-time education has several political motivations.

In the first place, the First Lady hopes to establish warmer working relations with the inner circle of presidential advisors.

And she also believes that her hands-on approach to adult education will impress the Yellow Vests, with whom she is said to wish for a “reconciliation”.

The Live initiative is, perhaps unfortunately, being financed by the luxury goods group, LVMH, the source of many of Brigitte Macron’s most striking outfits, and a major contributor to the Notre-Dame re-building fund.

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