It is all over the news in France but for some reason nobody has reported it over here. A MP has asked how much Valerie Trierweiler, the current girlfriend of French president Francois Hollande, was costing the French taxpayer. The response was very diligently published on an official website (see here) : if the figures are to be believed, Valerie Trierweiler is costing a bit less that 20 000 € per month whereas the former First Lady Carla Bruni (who for some reason is not explicitly named) was costing more than 60 000€ per month. Right. So, what do we make of this?
Well, not much really. There is a big debate in France about whether Valerie Trierweiler is really a First Lady, because she is not married to the president. They haven’t even filed a joint tax return, which, according to some, only makes her the ‘official mistress’ (‘la favorite’). Right then, maybe a mistress is cheaper than a wife. As a pragmatic friend of mine pointed out, the problem with mistresses is that you can have more than one. It reminded me of an earlier decision of Francois Hollande: he cut the ministers salaries by 30% but increased the number of ministers from 20 to 34, and I have never understood whether there was a saving for the taxpayer in the end. Figures are never to be believed because, in France, the definition of an independent audit remains unclear, and costs are presented in a misleading way (e.g.: unit cost and not total costs if we take the example of the number of ministers).
So, what can we make of the comparative costs of the First Ladies/Mistresses/girlfriends?
I am not so sure. France has a long tradition of having a king initially, then a President with a roving eye. Francois Mitterrand even had the taxpayer foot the bill of a second family on the side. There is nothing new here. I think that, if a meaningful comparison must be made, then some ground rules must be established. I have come up with an initial set. Feel free to add to the list. The costs will include:
– the wife and all actual mistresses and girlfriends, their accommodation and other advantages (bodyguards, jobs offered to them, etc…)
– the cost of getting rid of all the exes (or keeping them at arm’s length, if you want)
– the surveillance of potential new girlfriends (sometimes Presidents use their prerogatives to listen to their phone conversations and try to get to know them before making a move…)
– the costs of all the lovely meals in even lovelier restaurants to seduce new targets
– the cost of redecorating new official residences once a relationship is finished and a new conquest wants to erase all traces of the old one.
Did I forget anything?
What I am just trying to say is that we must be careful what we wish for here. Too much information might sometimes hide the real points at issue here (i.e. France is going back into recession). Don’t get me wrong, as a taxpayer, I find the cost of any First Lady/girlfriend/mistress too high. I don’t understand what we get in return and I am sure that there is more to the costs than what is shown anyway (knowing my home country, it is only the tip of the iceberg). But please, can French politicians just get back to work on the real issues ? As for wife or mistresses, well, I don’t care as long, as I don’t finance such a lifestyle. Come on guys, back to work now. Please.
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London