I flew into a rage last Sunday when our eight-month-old puppy stole one of my shoes. By the time I retrieved it she’d done considerable damage, having chewed off most of the heel. Oh well, I thought, at least I have some more upstairs. Unlike French president François Hollande, who, we’re told, only has one pair.
In fact, it was the shoes that gave him away: the sleuths of Closer magazine who spotted him visiting his new mistress, Julie Gayet, noticed they were the same ones he had worn on a state visit to Saudi Arabia the day before. The shoes, the battered old scooter he arrived on and the crash helmet he wore as a disguise, seem to have offended the French far more than the affair itself.
So what’s his secret? “Hey chaps, all of you who joined gyms, bought or got new face products and designer clothes, don’t bother,” says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in The Independent. “It’s a waste of time and money. Women need none of that to be turned on, to be seduced, to become practiced mistresses.”
The details of this affair are “delicious, and wholly Gallic”, says Cristina Odone in The Daily Telegraph. The alleged paramour, Julie Gayet, is a “sensual” actress 18 years Hollande’s junior; the wronged woman is Valérie Trierweiler, a feisty journalist nicknamed “Rottweiler”. Odone spent the weekend “giggling” with friends. “We couldn’t get over the success that this podgy and humourless leftie enjoys with gorgeous women who should know better.”
But then this is France and Hollande is just the latest in a long ignoble line of libidinous politicians that includes Félix Faure (who died, aged 57, in bed with his half-naked mistress), François Mitterrand and the tirelessly promiscuous Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.
Nor must we overlook Jacques Chirac, says Matthew Campbell in The Sunday Times, who was known as “five minutes, shower included”, according to his chauffeur. None of these presidents worried about the paparazzi, acting “in the knowledge that a reverential press would never dream of exposing them”. (Hollande, typically, is threatening to sue Closer on privacy groundsrather than accusing it of purveying falsehoods.)
L’affaire Hollande tells us a lot about the Gallic attitude to sex, says Odone: in France, female attraction tends to be rooted in savoir-faire rather than Botox, “in quirky intelligence rather than a trout pout. As their attitude to their unprepossessing president shows, the French are forgiving of their paunchy, balding middle-aged men.
Consider Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF Lothario, whose sexual escapades sparked an international scandal, or Gerard Depardieu” – hardly a looker, even if he does love women and wine.
Perhaps the women who’ve fallen for Hollande have “modest aspirations” when it comes to men, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in The Independent. “Not surprising, really. In France, feminism is still just a conversation in cafes, and sexual games are played and won mostly by men.”
Tabloid money: We don’t want to pay £23.50 to look at a tomato
• “Oh dear. That gigantic greenhouse in Cornwall” – the Eden Project – “has just announced a whopping deficit of £6.3m,” says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. “Unless something can be done it will probably be forced to follow in the footsteps of the ridiculous Earth Centre and close down. Bosses blamed poor weather for the drop in visitor numbers in 2012. They also say the Olympics and the economy don’t help. And given half a chance, they’d probably point the finger at the price of cheese, the position of Jupiter’s fourth moon, Kim Jong-un’s haircut and Kelly Brook’s left buttock.”
The truth is, “we’re not interested. We don’t want to pay £23.50 to look at a tomato. If they want to get people through the doors they should lose the plants and build a go-kart track.”
• “This country gives £2m a year in aid to Argentina,” says Tony Parsons in The Sun. “This seems rather dumb when there are savage cuts to our armed forces – who might come in quite handy if some little tin-pot Argie politician ever tries to invade the Falklands again. The 180th anniversary of British rule in the Falklands was marked by Argentinian politicians making crowd-pleasing rants about ‘colonial and military occupation of Argentine territory’.”
When will Mr Cameron “get it into his pink head that ‘foreign aid’ is just a euphemism” for flushing away taxpayers’ money? “Wasting [it] on foreigners who hate our guts doesn’t make the PM a nice guy. It makes him an idiot. ‘The lion roars but does not inspire fear any more,’ sneers Hector Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister. The next you hear sabres rattled in Buenos Aires, remember who paid for them. You.”
• “So what does our government regard as good public service these days?” asks Alison Phillips in the Daily Mirror. “Presumably not the police, defence and transport departments, which… face another £13bn of cuts. Rather a hairdresser who charges £90 for tending Cameron’s barnet and has landed an MBE. Clearly Lino Carbosiero shares his client’s passion for cutting.”