Do what again now?

I’ve been hoping Emmanuel or someone would step forward and explain what happened yesterday in the French Parliament.

Here’s the New York Times version:

When François Hollande, the Socialist Party leader, berated the French government for its handling of the crisis at Europe’s leading aerospace company, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin lost control.

In an outburst that was both highly personal and filled with rage, Mr. de Villepin shouted: “I denounce, Mr. Hollande, the superficiality, and I would even say, looking at you, cowardice! Cowardice! There is in your attitude, I say it again, cowardice!”

Socialist members of the Assembly tried to drown out Mr. de Villepin with cries of “Resign! Resign!” Some deputies moved forward, toward the prime minister, before storming out of the chamber.

Henri Emmanuelli, a Socialist deputy and a former president of the National Assembly, shouted, “He’s mad!”

The session — the regularly scheduled Tuesday hearing with Mr. de Villepin and other ministers — came to an abrupt end.

Do what?

I mean, this would be roughly equivalent to Tony Blair losing his head and screaming at wossname, Cameron, the Tory leader on the floor of the House of Commons. Right?

The nominal cause of the outburst was Airbus, but apparently Hollande had warmed de Villepin up first with a reference to Clearstream:

Mr. Hollande asked whether the French government, a major stakeholder in EADS, continued to support the executive, Noël Forgeard.

Mr. Hollande also charged that Mr. de Villepin lacked the trust of the French people and would not regain it by filing a libel suit against three journalists. On Monday, Mr. de Villepin took the unusual step of suing the journalists, who wrote two books on a complicated financial scandal known as the Clearstream affair. It was considered a politically risky move, in that it could force him to testify about the case in court.

De Villepin is certainly under some stress. Maybe he just lost his cool? But this is French politics. I am no expert on this topic, but I do know the basic principle nothing is ever simple. (See, again, Clearstream.)

Comments from our French and Francophone readers welcome.

8 thoughts on “Do what again now?

  1. I see from Le Monde that Villepin apologized this morning. According to coverage, the socialists haven’t accepted his apology. Ayrault isn’t letting it slide.

    Looks to me like Villepin just flipped. Serious political mistake.

  2. The PM outburst was misplaced, but he did not look totally mad and screaming.

    His answer was rather puzzling, saying that in a democratic country, one shall not speak non-sense, one shall not mix carrots and cauliflower, or mix the necessity of truth and the necessity of appropriate management.

    This non-sens (which is not all due to my lousy translating) just added to the feeling that the PM was, well, tensed.

  3. Luci, the European Union has twenty working languages representing the de facto official languages of all its members; the continent as whole has more than 200 languages. Of those 20 working languages, I can read three easily, two more with some difficulty, another two I can manage by using cognates strategies and some software tools. Most Europeans – a narrow majority in most studies – can manage two languages, a sizable minority three. Do you really think we can all turn to local coverage for every interesting story in Europe?

    I read the American press just like a lot of other people in Europe because what goes on in the US remains important. When an interesting European story gets covered in the New York Times and the local press is not accessible, why should the fact that it’s an American paper make a difference?

  4. It’s about time I did another Clearstream post, as M.Gergorin has as good as confessed, which in turn implicates de Villepin and Chirac.

  5. Oh yeah, and the French managing director saying he “wasn’t informed” about the problems with the 380? That should be a firing offense right then and there. MDs had jolly well better be informed, or they shouldn’t be MDs. Or are the rules different if you’re French?

    Also, there were some suspicious-looking exercises of options as this news was burbling (or not) up to the top. I hope someone who can afford an FT subscription will give us a bit of an update.

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