Obituary: Jacques Medecin

JACQUES MEDECIN, the disgraced former mayor of Nice who has died in exile in Uruguay at the age of 70, was a lovable rogue. Lovable to some, at any rate. To others, he was a crook, an embezzler, a womaniser, a fantasist and a racist.

As mayor, or dictator, of Nice for 24 years, he counted among his mortal enemies Charles de Gaulle, Graham Greene and Francois Mitterrand. He counted among his friends Jean-Marie Le Pen, the President of the National Front, and several of the leading figures in the syndicates of organised crime and corrupt business which have tarnished the reputation, and the sky- line, of the Cote d'Azur in the last three decades.

He once said: "I've never met a Jew who would refuse a present, even if it was one he didn't like." Much the same could have been said of Medecin himself. In 1982, in a celebrated pamphlet (never published in France) entitled J'Accuse, Graham Greene, a resident of nearby Antibes, excoriated the deepening corruption of the Cote d'Azur and the political-business- criminal network surrounding Medecin in particular.

Even though he skipped to South America in 1990 to avoid charges of tax evasion and pillaging the city's finances - charges for which he was extradited in 1994 and served one year in prison in France - "Jacquou" remained until his death a hugely popular figure in his home town.

The people of Nice - or a majority of the people of Nice - forgave him everything. With a series of costly leisure and sporting projects, he made the city cosmopolitan, trendy and expansive again after it slid into genteel torpor under the mayorship of his father, Jean, during the 1950s and 1960s. For the many thousands of former Algerian colonists who moved to Nice, Medecin was the man who insulted de Gaulle publicly and went out of his way to make them welcome.

He ran Nice along the lines of a newly industrialised nation or an old- style American city hall: machine politics, cronyism, patronage and a non-stop political campaign. His father once memorably said that it was impossible to run Nice without finding a role for the city's gangsters but you should "never give them a lift in your car". Medecin fils ignored this metaphorical advice, making provocatively public alliances with local hoodlums.

By siphoning off a part of the city's income with a series of front organisations, he made himself a multi-millionaire but declined to pay taxes. He insisted that his total earnings were pounds 10,000 a year. After marrying a young Californian, Ilene Graham, in 1979, Medecin spent more and more time in the United States. (He had not yet divorced his first wife but was saved from bigamy on a technicality; he had not registered his new marriage in Las Vegas with the French consulate.)

Medecin had always been attracted to the far right. He was an indefatigable defender of apartheid. In his later years as mayor, he became increasingly attracted to the xenophobic, anti-immigrant National Front, declaring Le Pen to be "99 per cent correct".

Finally, as the government investigators closed in, and his unexplained absences from Nice grew longer, Medecin chose to flee. His departure was as grandiose and bizarre as his mayorship. He went to Osaka to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the city's twinning with Nice. Instead of returning, he flew to Argentina, then Uruguay, claiming that he was the victim of a plot by the wicked Socialists now running France (some of whom turned out to be almost as corrupt as Medecin).

"I have always been a warrior and I will fight on to the last drop of my blood," he said. "But today, faced by the crushing weight of the totalitarian, Socialist power machine in France, I have been forced to make a tactical retreat."

His principled stand was somewhat undercut when a policeman found a suitcase containing the equivalent of pounds 70,000 in cash at Charles de Gaulle airport, addressed to the runaway mayor in Uruguay.

Medecin's legend in Nice remains intact. His death in exile has become an issue in the parliamentary by-election in the city, which occurs this weekend - a macabre piece of timing that Medecin would have adored.

The centre-right candidate Jacqueline Mathieu-Obadia described him as a "very great mayor . . . loved, very loved . . . an extraordinary man".

Mathieu-Obadia is a member of the RPR or neo-Gaullist party. Medecin detested de Gaulle and fought against Gaullism, and its descendants, most of his life. Such a fulsome Gaullist tribute to an anti-Gaullist reveals the continuing power of "Medecinisme" eight years after he fled the city. It also illustrates the vacant ideology and the muddled political genealogy of the French centre right, after a series of political failures and scandals of which Medecin's was one of the first but not necessarily the worst.

Jacques Medecin, local politician: born Nice, France 5 May 1928; Mayor of Nice 1966-90; thrice married (three daughters); died Punta del Este, Uruguay 17 November 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam