Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is left with only 'French maids’ for company

Once Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a shoo-in for the next president of France - but those heady days are long gone.

Dominique Strauss-Khan's wife has moved back to Morocco, and demonstrators and the press follow his every move - Dominique Strauss-Kahn is left with only 'French maids’ for company
Dominique Strauss-Khan's wife has decamped to Morocco, and demonstrators and the media follow his every move Photo: GETTY
It’s no fun being Dominique Strauss-Kahn these days. His long-suffering wife, the millionaire art heiress Anne Sinclair, has decamped for the family ryad in Marrakesh, leaving him to face the daily revelations about prostitutes being flown to him in Washington. His Place des Vosges neighbours are up in arms as the quiet of their beautiful, 400-year-old Parisian square is disturbed by demonstrations against the “sexism” of the former head of the IMF. (A recent one involved a gaggle of Ukrainian feminists, bussed in from Kiev, wearing bikinis, “French maid” outfits, stilettos, stockings and garter belts.

His every move is followed by paparazzi. And even though the case that put his adventurous sex life in the open was dismissed by the New York courts, the hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo is suing him in a civil court, where she expects to win massive damages. Once he was a shoo-in for the next president of France; those heady days are long gone.

Now Edward Epstein has written an “investigative” piece for the New York Review of Books, which attempts to prove that the alleged rape was a set-up masterminded by Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, the UMP. Using footage from the hotel’s security cameras and telephone records, presumably fed by DSK’s defenders, Epstein constructs a ripping story of entrapment.

He makes much of a supposed “victory dance” caught on CCTV by two low-level hotel employees after the police were brought in to hear Diallo on the day of the alleged assault, using it to suggest that Accor, the French chain managing the hotel, were involved in bringing Sarkozy’s most dangerous rival down. (The employees, however, have said they were discussing sport.)

Alas for DSK, even his closest friends and political supporters aren’t buying Epstein’s thesis. The latest one to dismiss it is Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, a Socialist MP who was widely tipped be part of a 2012 DSK cabinet, and who once carried the can for DSK in a party financing scandal. But Paris is almost entirely unanimous on one point: that Epstein’s very readable piece is predicated on an assumption of competence by the UMP dirty tricks department that’s nothing short of fantastic. “That lot couldn’t conspire their way out of a paper bag” is the consensus.

It’s not just the Right that’s disorganised. The team running the campaign for François Hollande, the Socialist presidential challenger, has had to assign a minder to his gaffe-prone partner, the former Paris Match reporter Valérie Trierweiler (nicknamed Valérie Rottweiler). Trierweiler, who covered Hollande and his then partner of 20 years, Ségolène Royal, for Match (even reporting from the post-delivery room after the birth of the last of the couple’s four children in 1992) says coyly that her “relationship with François changed in 2005”, a date that some dispute. She took to giving embarrassing interviews in which she said that Ségolène should “learn to step back”. Rottweiler is now being “advised” by one Nathalie Mercier, a PR hack from the very agency which conducted the campaign to clear DSK’s name with such alacrity. Oh for the days of Madame de Gaulle, who never said a word.

Is sex compulsory in France? A man who “mostly’’ stopped having sexual relations with his wife of 21 years has just been fined 10,000 euros damages by an Aix-en-Provence court on appeal, confirming a similar 2009 ruling. Two sets of judges concurred in finding that the man’s wedding vows had not been followed, even though he “occasionally” still performed, and that his wife’s rights and expectations were not respected. The couple are now divorced in a ruling setting the fault 100 per cent on him. Can damages for unsatisfying performances be far behind?

© Telegraph Media Group & Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, 2012

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