French women love new Prime Minister Manuel Valls but can he fix things for Hollande?

France's new prime minister, Manuel Valls
France's new prime minister, Manuel Valls AFP PHOTO/François Nascimbeni

"A bit testosteroned" was how political journalist Nathalie Saint Cricq, described new PM Manuel Valls on French TV last night.


Valls won’t mind, he actively projects an image of authority and strength and can probably live with the suggestion that he’s a bit macho.

Though he recently won a magazine poll as the politician with whom women would most like to have a fling, he has four children and is said to be besotted with his second wife, concert violinist Anne Gravoin, who went to school with him.

Saint Cricq also likened him to Nicolas Sarkozy, a common comparison and indeed there are several similarities between the new Prime Minister and the former president.

Valls shares an immigrant background with Sarkozy. The new PM is the son of a Spaniard and a Swiss Italian mother. He was born during a holiday in Barcelona though his parents had already settled in France. He became a French citizen at the age of 20, though he is still a passionate supporter of Barcelona and speaks not only Spanish but also Catalan.

Valls came second from last in the Socialist Party primaries to choose a candidate for the 2012 presidential election but since his appointment by Hollande as Interior Minister he has topped opinion polls almost every week as the most popular person in government.

Determined to reverse the Socialist party’s reputation as lax on law and order, he talked tough but has had mixed results in concrete terms, the same criticism of Sarkozy’s record as a hard-hitting interior minister.

Valls recently talked in an interview about his sister’s problems with drug addiction, which he said reinforced his determination not to be soft on drugs.

Many Socialists feel he doesn’t really belong in their party. In the Socialist primaries he was frequently compared to Tony Blair for his attempts to drag the party to the right. He voted for the burka ban, has criticised the 35 hour week, and bitterly clashed with other ministers over whether to send Roma families back to their original countries.

It is well-known that the Valls was not Hollande’s first choice to be Prime Minister, (others declined the post).

Ambitious and popular, Valls is something of a rival to Hollande. His spectacular rise has also irked some Socialist heavyweights, while others on the far left of the party simply loathe his right-wing tendencies.

The EELV (green) party, especially dislike him and could decide to leave the government coalition completely.

He has been chosen because he projects competence in a government which sorely needs an image boost.

Despite the massive defeats in Sunday’s local elections, Hollande has made clear that he will not back down on the Pacte de responsibilité which will entail massive cuts in state expenditure.

Valls the communicator is likely to do a much better job of selling this deal than his hapless predecessor Jean-Marc Ayrault or indeed Hollande whose television addresses are rarely a success.

Tomorrow we will learn the composition of his new cabinet – which is also likely to include Hollande’s former partner and mother of his four children, Ségolène Royal.

Typically communications-savvy, he chose not to announce his cabinet on April Fools Day.




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