Belfast Telegraph

Here's one politician who knows how to woo the female vote

By Lindy McDowell

If there's somethin' strange, dans le neighbourhood, who ya gonna call? French Closer. If there's somethin' weird, an' it don't look good, who ya gonna call? French Closer ... The French edition of the glossy, gossip magazine was previously famous (or, you may prefer, infamous) for publishing pics of Kate Middleton lounging topless on her holiday terrace with only a few passing pigeons, Prince William and a lensman (secreted 600 metres away in the undergrowth) within viewing distance.

That front page featured in headlines around the globe, although in a version so heavily pixelated it could have been a pic of a sunbathing corgi for all we could tell. Or the weather pattern of a polar vortex. Now French Closer is back with another exclusive intrusion. It has just published pictures of France's Monsieur le President emerging from the love nest of his bit sur le side.

From every angle this is a fascinating/baffling story. M. Hollande is doubtless an engaging soul but without wishing to be unkind, he is also a stocky, bespectacled, middle-aged individual – the sort of bloke you would not be surprised to see in an anorak, jotting down engine specifications in his notebook as he surveys trains arriving and departing at the Gare du Nord.

The leading man in a love triangle (or quartet, if you count the mother of his children) you really would not immediately plump for. But the doughty aforementioned French Closer have caught him in the act. Well, maybe not exactly in the act, but at least emerging from the apartment where he had spent a night with his mistress, pouting blonde actress Julie Gayet.

Pictures show the chunky M. Hollande emerging from her home wearing a long coat and large helmet as he prepares to make good his escape. Aboard a three-wheeled scooter. But for the trusty French Closer explaining the background scenario to us, we could be forgiven for assuming what we have here is a picture illustrating how the Paris branch of Domino's does not enforce an upper age limit for its pizza delivery guys.

M. Hollande and his clandestine love appear to have been rumbled on account of the fact that the presidential bodyguard was tasked, the morning after, with supplying the lovebirds with fresh croissants. Since this raises legitimate questions about use of public funding, French Closer may be able to cite it as justification against what are some of the most draconian privacy laws in Europe.

In the immediate aftermath of publication, an enraged M. Hollande did not admit to an affair, and yesterday told reporters that "private matters should be dealt with privately". But since his live-in partner, France's (current) First Lady, Valerie Trierweiler, was hospitalised with shock on the back of the revelations, it would be safe to say that she, at least, suspects some level of le hanky panky.

Mlle Trierweiler is not a popular figure in France. She's regarded as extravagant, arrogant and self-centred. Think Marie Antoinette without the cake distribution plans. Valerie is known unaffectionately as The Rottweiler.

The thing is, like M. Hollande's former partner and his current squeeze, she is a fine-looking woman. What on earth do these intelligent, attractive women see in the man? What has he got? Outside, that is, of the keys for the Élysée Palace ...

France – and indeed the prurient rest of us – await to see what happens next in this saga. Perhaps a new case for Dr Richard Haass? Maybe he could get the various competing parties seated around a table to try and thrash out agreement on future protocol? Who gets to hoist their flag above the palace? Who gets to parade as M. Hollande's First Lady?

In return maybe the French could send us their French Closer team. Irreverent, impudent, contemptuous of political leaders and not afraid to point up their double standards ...

I like the cut of French Closer's jib.

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