Georges Frêche: a triumph of deeds over dogma

3 The gaff-prone giant of politics carried all before in the Languedoc-Roussillon’s Regional Elections 3

[(I repeat, I am from the South and will remain so. It is my country. I was born in the Tarn [Puylaurens 9th July 1938], I have lived for the greatest part of my life in Montpellier, and I have done everything in my power for this town. So let not people come and pick quarrels with me out of pure parisianisme (Parisian snobbery). I know I will never be graceful in the eyes of these gentlemen, that my peculiar expressions of anger and my blunt accent disturb them but I don’t give a damn : I have other things to do.)]

[(What I know is that progressively the Socialist Party [Parti Socialiste or PS] has erected itself into a vehicle for universal values: anti-bigot, anti-alcoholic, anti-smoking, anti-racist, pro-homosexual, pro-black, pro-white, pro-yellow, pro-red, pro-Jewish, pro-Muslim, pro-orthodox, pro-Japanese, pro-garden gnome, anti-pitbull, anti-unhappiness, anti-anger, anti-vulgar…” (translation John Lichfield))]

[(… lacking direction and purpose, the PS now only generates autodestruction, that’s for sure. Cock fights, internecine warfare, lawsuits, all is fine provided one doesn’t tackle the real problems. In my view the PS resembles an ultimate confession of impotence.)]

Above extracts from George Frêche’s recently published apologia Trève de Balivernes – Pour en finir avec l’hypocrisie (That’s Enough Twaddle – lets put an end to hypocrisy)

[(He has exploited his identity card to the full – that of the countryman in opposition to Paris, and people have listened. His regional policies in favour of rural areas has paid off equally well.
Jérôme Fourquet, deputy director, department of opinions and strategies, IFOP (French Institute of Public Opinion) L’Indépendant 18/03/2010)]

Even the first round results of our regional elections in the Languedoc-Roussillon came as no surprise to anyone. Except, possibly, to some élite members of France’s Parti Socialiste closeted away in Paris’s rue de Solférino.

France’s most gaff-prone giant of politics, Georges Frêche, President of the Languedoc Region since 2004, romped home with his rag-tag maverick party, Divers Gauche (Various Left), on that first Sunday, 14th March. Frêche had been excluded from membership of the official Parti Socialiste for more than three years.

With a 38% share of the votes Frêche’s lead over his nearest rival, Raymond Couderc UMP (centre right/Sarkozy), was almost 15%. As for the official regional “liste” of the Parti Socialiste, it was a case of abject humiliation. They didn’t even make it to the second round, scoring a mere 7.74% of the vote. Martine Aubry, First Secretary of the national PS, put a brave face on it all with her repeated Edith Piaf refrain – spoken not sung – “je ne regrette rien”.

The second round on 21st March merely rubbed salt into the PS’s wounds, with Frêche polling 54.19% of the votes, Couderc 26.43 and France Jamet (Front National) 18.38%. However, at least Aubry and the PS had the pleasure of thrashing the right nationally in the second round, polling 54.3% of the votes.

The PS had created a liste in opposition to Frêche following his latest politically incorrect insult – this time an antisemitic comment on the “not very catholic” large nose or mug (“tronche”) of the former Jewish socialist prime minister Laurent Fabius. Frêche has disingenuously tried to deflect criticism by saying that in his southern parlance “not very catholic” simply means “not entirely straightforward”. In fairness, however, Frêche’s “attachment to the existence of the state of Israel” is well known, and when Mayor of Montpellier he oversaw the building of the city’s first synagogue.

A whole string of such blunders had led to Frêche’s exclusion from the PS in January 2007. But why should he care with such a huge core following of men and women from the rural hinterlands of the Languedoc-Roussillon région? He has always played massively and successfully his trump card – being a plain countryman who speaks his mind and doesn’t give a damn about Parisian elitism.

In spite of this much vaunted persona, Frêche is of course intellectually very astute, having enjoyed a distinguished academic career at Montpellier University in Roman law over 39 years. It is interesting to discover that his favourite bedside book is Machiavelli’s The Prince.

His indiscretions over the years, often with racist overtones, have made startling reading. So have his sometimes unconvincing attempts to defend himself. If your French is reasonable you can read some of these in his recent apologia Trève de Balivernes (That’s Enough Twaddle).

3 Some of Frêches “dérapages” (blunders) 3

July 1, 2000:
“This is the longest tunnel in the world. You enter it in France and you come out in Ouarzazate” (a city in Morocco). Frêche was referring to a newly installed tramway line of which the terminus is in Montpellier’s La Paillade, an area chiefly populated by some 20,000 inhabitants of Arab and Muslim origin.

April, 2005:
“I hope he does better than the other idiot”, referring to the election of the new Pope Benedict XVI, replacing Pope John-Paul II.

February 11, 2006:
Replying to two heckling Harkis (Algerians who fought on the French side in the colonial wars) at a demonstration in support of the France’s former presence in North Africa:

“You are unbelievably negligent and indifferent. You don’t understand history. Ah – you went along with the Gaullistes. You form part of those harkis who are committed to being suckers all their lives. Do you need to be reminded that 80,000 harkis had their throats slashed like pigs because the French army let it happen? … They massacred your people in Algeria and you are going to lick their boots. You are nothing. You are sub-humans. nothing at all. Someone has to tell you! You are without honour You are not capable of defending your own people. There! There! Move on!”

(As a young man Frêche had passionately supported the cause of Algerian independence.)

November 15, 2006:

On the French national football team:

“There are 9 Blacks out of 11. The normal number would be three or four. This would reflect [French] society. But if there are so many, it is because Whites are lame. I’m ashamed for this country. Soon, there will be eleven blacks. When I see certain football teams, it makes me sad.”

During the media storm that followed this outburst, Frêche received support from political opponents such as Jean-Pierre Grand (UMP).

3 So what? 3

As far as Frêche’s supporters and even some of his opponents are concerned, his controversial tirades are little or nothing compared to his massive and visionary achievements as former mayor of Montpellier and as President of the Languedoc-Roussillon from 2004. Here are a few of them:

3 As Mayor 3

Frêche expanded Montpellier in all directions, propelling it from the 25th largest city in France to the 8th in less than 30 years. Under him, Montpellier specialised in clean, tertiary industries such as banking, electronics and drinkable water processing.

I arrived in Montpellier, Frêche didn’t know me and he helped me to get a job at the hospital. He is a man with a heart!!! br>
Zora, of Algerian origin and now employed at the laundry CHU

I am not on his side, he is a coarse man, but he has turned Montpellier into a sensational city.

Nicole, retired from Unilever and a member of the Cathedral choir.

3 As President 3

The respected French journalist Jacques Molénat recently summarised (in L’Express) Frêche’s achievements as President of the Languedoc-Roussillon from 2004.

“His strong points”
– 5 lycées built, 3 more planned
– free school books
– renovation of the TER regional rail network
– decisive action to develop Montpellier University as a “pole of international excellence”.
– financial aid to launch the TGV section Nîmes-Montpellier
– Success of the “Sud de France” identity brand for wine and other regional products

“His black points”
– “fiscal bludgeoning”: 80% increase in rates and professional taxes in his first year; between 2004 and 2010 fiscal charges have increased by 154%.
– “Surcommunication” (= excessive communications and marketing?): he is under fire from the opposition for spending 90 million euros on marketing and promotion by the Conseil Régional, i.e. 10% of the budget.

3 Frêche’s objectives this time round include: 3

– from 1st January a flat 1 euro rail fare throughout the TER region – i.e. from Nîmes to the Spanish frontier.
– a free portable computer for every lycée pupil
– a grant of 500 euros for every apprentice to take a driving test
– a determination to reduce the Languedoc-Roussillon’s unemployment rate – one of country’s highest at 12.4% (national average 7.8%)
– the construction of 340,000 social housing units to relaunch the building industry
– the creation of a “regional metro”
– making tourism a top priority – he proposes to double the budget.

After his election victory Frêche is taking a month off for an operation to insert a tungsten joint in his right leg, which he describes as “destroyed”.

Bon rétablissement à Georges!

3 References and follow up 3

Trève de balivernes : pour en finir avec l’hypocrisie (February 2010, Éditions Héloïse d’Ormesson)
many editions of L’Indépendant
L’Express 09/03/2010 Le Bilan de Georges Frêche (Jacques Molénat)
John Lichfield, [The Independent-> ]

© 2010 Basil Howitt

[(Basil Howitt has also written
[Life in a Penguin Suit->Life in a Penguin Suit] (Camerata Productions 1993)
[Love Lives of the Great Composers->Love Lives of the Great Composers] (Sound and Vision 1995)
[Grand Passions and Broken Hearts: Lives and Lusts of the Great Composers->Grand Passions and Broken Hearts: Loves and Lusts of the Great Composers] (Robson Books 1998)
[More Love Lives of the Great Composers->More Love Lives of the Great Composers] (Sound And Vision 2002)
Walter and His Daughters: The Story of the Carroll Family of Manchester (Forsyth Brothers Ltd 2005)

[(You can contact Basil by email: [>]

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