Hollande’s Sarkozy joke riles French opposition

French President François Hollande has riled the opposition after making a joke at the expense of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hollande's Sarkozy joke riles French opposition
French president François Hollande (second left), chatting with children at the annual Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris on February 23rd. Photo: Screengrab iTele

Hollande took a humorous swipe at the man he defeated in last year’s presidential elections when he paid a visit to the annual Agricultural Fair (Salon de l’Agriculture) in Paris on Saturday.

After a young boy approached him and said “I have never seen Nicolas Sarkozy”, Hollande smiled and replied “Oh well, you’ll never see him again.”

The comment was met with heartfelt laughter by all those gathered around the president, who has a reputation in France for cracking jokes.

However those on the right and especially Sarkozy’s former allies did not see the funny side.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, former spokeswoman for Sarkozy during his failed re-election bid said it was “an insult to the millions of French people who had voted for Nicolas Sarkozy”.

NKM, as she is known in France, added that the comment was proof the president is obsessed with the man he ousted from the Elysée Palace.

A furious Luc Chatel, a former government minister under Sarkozy said France needed a “president to perform his duties, not a variety performer”.

“Behind Monsieur Petite-Blagues (Mr Little Jokes) he hides a lot of pettiness towards his predecessor.”

This is not the first time a president has sparked controversy on a visit to the Salon de l’Agriculture, held at Porte de Versailles every year.

In 2007, Sarkozy famously told a farmer to “Get lost you poor idiot” after he refused to shake the then president's hand.

It is possible that Hollande’s joke at Sarkozy’s expense could come back to haunt him, with increased speculation that the former president will try to regain his place at the Elysée Palace in the 2017 presidential elections.

Members of the UMP are not likely to forget the joke in a hurry, as deputy Lionnel Luca suggested.

“Socialist arrogance and impudence,” Luca tweeted. “Rendez-vous in 2017.”

The joke may even give Sarkozy that little bit of extra incentive to wrestle back the presidency from Hollande.

"Only a court can stop Sarkozy making a comeback" – Click here to read an expert's view of the chances of Sarkozy becoming president again.

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French minister advises: ‘Wear a turtleneck sweater this winter’

France's finance minister has branched out into fashion advice - suggesting that Frenchmen wear "turtleneck sweaters" rather than ties this winter, in order to help save energy.

French minister advises: 'Wear a turtleneck sweater this winter'

Bruno Le Maire, interviewed on Tuesday by France Inter radio, said: “You will no longer see me with a tie but with a turtleneck. And I think it will be very good, it will allow us to save energy.”

He was commenting on the government’s energy-saving plans for the winter, which include limiting the heating in public buildings and government ministries to a maximum of 19C.

Households are also advised not to turn their heating up above 19C, but for private individuals this is voluntary. There are also exceptions to the rules for public buildings such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Le Maire is not the only European politician to give an energy-saving lead through fashion – this summer Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez announced that he would no longer wear ties to the office, although in his case this was to keep cool as Spain imposed limits on air-conditioning.

France’s plan for sobriété enérgetique (energy-saving) will be revealed in full in October, but involves public buildings and businesses making cuts to their energy usage, while households are advised – although not required – to do likewise. France intends to cut its total energy usage by 10 percent this winter in order to avoid the risk of blackouts since Russia has cut off its gas supplies.

REVEALED How likely are blackouts in France this winter?