Laurent Fabius Watch

The Stoa’s Fabius correspondent writes, very possibly for the last time:

Chris’s One-Time Dining Companion Not to be French President in 2007 Shock

Ah, so it was not to be. The results from the Parti Socialiste’s primaries show the Stoa’s candidate Laurent Fabius came in third place with 18.7% of the vote, behind Ségolène Royal on 60.7% and Dominique Strauss-Kahn on 20.6%. This means the second round of voting in which Fabius had hoped to come through will not take place, and Fabius has rallied to support Royal for president in the grand combat against the Right and extreme Right.

Still, as you can see from this handy map on Le Monde‘s website, at least Fabius managed to come in first place in two departments (Haute-Normandie, where his constituency is, and Haute-Corse), which is more than can be said for DSK.

Plus this may not be the end of Fabius’ presidential ambitions forever. As he has himself pointed out, by the time of the next election in 2012, he will only be the same age as Mitterrand was when first elected in 1981… (A cartoon in this week’s Le Canard Enchaîné satirically suggested that in the event of failing to be selected as PS candidate Fabius may instead grow a José Bové-style moustache in a bid to be adopted as the unified candidate of the anti-capitalist hard Left!)

Nevertheless, the outcome of last night’s vote means that the Laurent-Fabius-Watch will be taking an extended sabbatical, at least for the time being.

The complete Laurent-Fabius-Watch is here.

Éléphant Blogging: the Laurent-Fabius-Watch

The Stoa’s PS correspondent writes…

Le Marathon Qui Se Transforme en Sprint

(That’s how the French TV news this morning put it). Well the campaign has enters its final days and your correspondent, on a brief visit to Paris, is filing this report from an internet café in the building in Belleville where Edith Piaf was born… There is little sign of Fabius-mania on the streets, just a few posters for a ‘grand meeting’ with rival candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn. But recent opinion polls suggest dramatic improvements in Fabius’ rating, up from 6 or 7 per cent to an astonishing 9 or 10 or even
11 per cent! That’s less than 50 points behind Ségolène Royal, suggesting the crowds of ecstatic fabiusiens seen shouting “Lau-rent Pres-i-dent” on the TV news last night – and Fabius’ own prediction that he will come second in Thursday’s first round and go on to win the second round – may not be as far from reality as cynical readers may suspect. Indeed, since none of the polls have been taken among Socialist Party members, the only people who can vote in this election, there is good reason to think they underestimate his support. While Royal and DSK have suggested policies to appeal to right-wing voters, Fabius has namechecked many Dead Socialists in calling for a return to the fundamentals of the “party of Jaurès”. Given the disproportionate number of schoolteachers among the party’s members, he has also taken advantage of a video circulating on the internet in which Royal suggests that teachers are not working hard enough as they have time to give private tuition. “It’s false, false, absolutely false!”.

Commuters picking up their copies of Métro at the RER station this morning were greeted by an exclusive interview with Fabius – illustrated by six photos taken in quck succession of him making a series of hand gestures – in which he declares his main message to activists is “Be free! Don’t ask who other people are voting for but what you want youself for your country and the Left”.

On that note, we await the results on Friday…

Laurent-Fabius-Watch: The Televised Debates

The Virtual Stoa’s Laurent Fabius Correspondent writes…

Yes, it’s two down and one to go of the televised debates between the Stoa’s man Laurent Fabius and rival éléphants Ségolène Royal and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, as their battle for the Socialist nomination for French President approaches its November dénouement. More exciting still, your correspondent’s recent computer upgrade means he can now watch the debates in their entirety on

The first debate on 17 October (available for viewing here) saw Fabius — fresh from declaring to a public meeting six days earlier that “In a few months we will have a new President of the Republic. There is a one in two chance it will be a Socialist. And an important chance that it will be me.” — announce that “I am above all a militant“, as he declared combating injustice and inequality to be his top priority. In a rare break with the UK media’s concentration on Royal alone, one contributor to Radio 4’s The World Tonight cruelly commented that Fabius came across as a grand bourgeois trying to reinvent himself as an extreme leftist.

The second debate on 24 October (available for viewing here — there is an edited transcript in the print version of today’s Le Monde, but that leaves out the all-important visual clues) was especially noteworthy for the way Fabius carried out what Libération described as a “bazooka” attack on Royal’s proposal for randomly selected citizen’s juries as dangerous populism, that he argues will play into the hands of the extreme right and undermine the principle of universal suffrage.

Also watch how Fabius’ hand gestures become ever more vigorous as he attacks Royal for going against agreed party policies with various gimmicky recent announcements. Needing no lessons in popular dissatisfaction with the system — as he reminds us, Fabius represents a workers’ constituency — he denounces Royal’s suggestion that anyone who disagrees with her ideas is out of touch with reality and thinks all is well with France. Then he takes a well-aimed swipe at Blair-style private finance initatives, ridiculing Strauss-Kahn’s apparent recent suggestion that the chair of nuclear physics at the Sorbonne could be sponsored by EDF!

Moving on, Fabius makes his own proposals for extended after-school support, full student grants (pointing out that students who work during their studies are 40% more likely to fail) and the legalisation of gay marriage and adoption. A moving story of a Congolese accountant who has lived in France for 22 years and whose wife, the mother of a French citizen, is facing deportation, on the grounds that the father could look after his son alone, bolsters Fabius’ call, contra Royal, for a large-scale regularisation of sans-papiers. “France is France, for God’s sake!”

(Le Monde’s TV critic unkindly suggests however that Fabius was laying it on a bit here: “This is always the problem with Laurent Fabius. It’s when he wants to show himself to be close to people that he seems the least sincere”.)

Fabius’ website boasts that he alone was responsible for introducing two themes into the debate which would otherwise have been excluded: public services (many hand gestures again, as he blames cuts in public services for last years’ riots) and secularism (he was the only one of the three to support the ban on religious symbols in schools). Finally, his summing up announced that a Fabius presidency would bring about urgent social measures (not to mention the relaunch of “social Europe”) as well as a shift in powers from a monarchical presidency to parliament.

The final debate, focusing on Europe and foreign policy, takes place on 7 November.

Meanwhile, those of you who enjoy the retro feel of French presidential elections (Stopped being prime minister twenty years ago? No problem) may be pleased to hear that Arlette Laguiller will indeed be standing, whatever the outcome of the tortuous discussions about a unified candidate of the “left of the left”. Along with Jean-Marie Le Pen, that makes at least two 2007 candidates who first stood for president in 1974!

Laurent-Fabius-Watch: La Rentrée S’Annonce Chaude

Nothing on Tim Collins recently, but the Stoa’s indefatigable Laurent Fabius correspondent writes:

Yes, there are only three months left before we find out whether Chris’ one-time dining companion Laurent Fabius will do battle with Nicolas Sarkozy for Western Europe’s most powerful elected post! A feverish autumn of political in-fighting is expected to follow as Fabius attempts to face down rival contenders Ségolène Royal, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Jack Lang and (possibly) Lionel Jospin and François Hollande for the Socialist Party’s candidature for President of the Republic. (Well, it’s already seen Jospin in tears at the party’s recent summer school in La Rochelle.) Nominations close on 3 October; the first round of voting is on 16 November and the second on 23 November; the winner will be officially ratified on 2 December. May the best éléphant win…

In the meantime, Laurent-Fabius-Watch wishes its man a happy 60th birthday. Will passing this milestone give him the necessary gravitas to be a présidentiable? (Let’s not forget that in 2002 the first, second and third placed candidates were aged 69, 73 and 64 respectively). Or will he fall victim to rampant ageism? Find out more in the L’Express interview which marked the occasion. What’s more, you can also hear – and see – Fabius talk about the impact May ’68 had on his generation, in a special birthday interview for BBC World available online.

I like ‘présidentiable‘. It’s almost as good as papabille.

Laurent Fabius Watch

One of the Virtual Stoa’s French Affairs Correspondents writes:

“Following the long-awaited news on that other political Titan Tim Collins CBE, we present an update on Laurent Fabius, Chris’s old acquaintance who is, twenty years after he stopped being French prime minister, seeking to be the Socialist Party’s candidate for President of the Republic in 2007.”Readers may like to be reminded that, the Stoa’s man is still – despite media excitement around rival contender Ségolène Royal, and despite our period of silence on the subject since January – very much in the race.

“He even has his own website, complete with regular podcasts! And although I lack the appropriate technology to listen to such things, it would appear from the title that the following effort will be of particular interest to Stoa readers in the UK: Pour gagner en 2007, la gauche ne peut pas prendre pour modèle Tony Blair.”

I’d rather taken my eye of the bald-headed éléphant, so it’s good to have an update.

Laurent Fabius Watch

The VS’s French Politics Correspondent writes:

“I had a look at the Stoa yesterday and noticed that the Dead Socialist Watch didn’t seem to have reported the tenth anniversary of the death of François Mitterrand! (I was in Paris last week and a distinctly uncritical nostalgia is everywhere … you even can go on a Mitterrand-themed walk around Paris to observe the sumptuous tableaux put up for the anniversary outside, amongst other Mitterrand-related locations, the Panthéon, the Bibliothèque Nationale and the Institut du Monde Arabe…).

“May I suggest that the occasion be marked (and Laurent-Fabius-Watch updated) by publishing Fabius’ latest tribute to Mitterrand? (My translation from Libération, 7-8 January 2006):”

“François Mitterrand, who defined himself first of all as a free man, thought that the experience of one person never really works for others. But however he most certainly taught me a lot, on personal and political levels. The most obvious of his lessons is the power of will, the necessity of rallying the Left together and the decisive role of Europe: all that is so well known that it is becoming banal to speak of it. He also taught us several other things. I cite, in no particular order: the primacy of culture over economics, the pre-eminence of the historical and strategic vision of France over making media coups, the fact that nothing in politics is worth as much as having territorial roots, the attention to the right word and the useless epiphet, the faith in friendship, the necessity of thinking globally and acting locally. And, above all, the human dimension of all action. “Life is judo”, “When you want, you can”, “Politics is saying things to people”, “Don’t take every fly flying past for an idea”, “He who has betrayed will betray”, “We must move the lines”: these were some of his favourite phrases, carriers of a philosophical vision – at the same time volontarist and sceptical – and of a political and human practice. Without having looked for it, he taught us that we should beware of courtesans, of habits, of excessive powers and of too long terms of office. Ah! I was almost going to forget: he taught us that at least three essential qualities are needed for a good president: experience, competence and endurance. The man of state must know how to anticipate and to resist. It is not totally useless to remember this.”

Thanks for that, that’s very fine, and, yes, apologies for not posting on this Dead Socialist; I was away over the weekend.


In an effort to kick-start the Laurent-Fabius-Watch, in which the Virtual Stoa will track its man all the way from referendum victory in 2005 to the Elysée in 2007 (or not, as the case may be), Dan sends me a summary of the latest developments in the French Press:

* Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a likely rival for the socialist nomination for President in 2007 is sticking the knife in with a suggestion in an
interview with Le Monde that Fabius should be removed from his position as no.2 in the Socialist party hierarchy.

* Meanwhile, Claude Bartolone, a Fabius sidekick, is counter-suggesting that he should be promoted to lead the PS’s preparations for 2007 — though stopping just short of calling for him to replace François Hollande as the Party’s First Secretary — according to this piece in Libération, which has the splendid phrase in it, “A troika of elephants”.

More soon, probably.


Also to Dan in Paris, who has just sent me a copy of Fabius: Les brûlures d’une ambition by Jean-Gabriel Fredet. He writes on the accompanying postcard:

“I came across this in a 2nd hand bookshop and thought you would appreciate it! Now that that other iconic figure Tim Collins has had his political career abruptly terminated, you can turn your attention to following Fabius’ bid for the presidency in 2007! (But you may not have long… I am reliably informed that if there is a “Yes” vote in the referendum on 29 May his career will be over, having gambled everything on the “No” campaign.)”

The deep background to this, which Dan knows, is that I once sat next to M. Fabius at an event in Paris when I was an undergraduate, and very good company he was, too. (A glance at an old diary says 29 April 1994.) But I don’t know, Dan: would it be wise, so soon after Mr Collins crashes and burns, to translate my affections so quickly back to this old flame, Fabius? (Brûlures, indeed.) Does the world of blogs really need a Laurent-Fabius-Watch, anyway?

News from France

A reader writes…

Talking of Arlette [ = Arlette Laguiller, aka “Arlette the starlet”, as we had been — Ed.] , you may (judging from your postings to the Virtual Stoa) be interested to hear that Arlette has now indicated that she is in favour of gay marriage (though is apparently not so keen on adoption by gay couples).Debate has recently resurfaced on this issue in France, after Dominique Strauss-Kahn (one of your, ahem, favourite French politician Laurent Fabius’ main rivals for the PS nomination for presidential candidate in 2007), last week attempted to make a bold policy move to jostle for position among his rival ‘elephants’ by pronouncing in favour of gay marriage. Noël Mamère, who you may recall was the Green candidate for president in 2002, has also declared that he is going to carry out such a ceremony in the town of Begles (near Bordeaux), of which he is mayor, on – I think – June 6.

There is, therefore, a cartoon on the front of the current issue of Le Canard Enchainé (which I bought yesterday in the departure lounge of one of the terminals of Charles de Gaulle airport which has not yet collapsed) which has Arlette saying (instead of her standard opening line ‘Travailleuses, Travailleurs’), ‘Travailleurs, Travailleurs, Travailleuses, Travailleuses, mariez-vous’.

The reference to Fabius is a reference to the fact that many years ago, and for odd reasons, I once found myself sat next to him at some function or other. And “elephant” is still one of my favourite political jargon words.