Obituary: Claude Labbe

Claude Labbe, politician: born Argenteuil, Seine et Oise 27 January 1920; deputy for Argenteuil 1958-62, for Meudon 1967-93; married (one son); died 29 November 1993.

SOME politicians never accept ministerial office. One such was Claude Labbe, who believed that as the leader of his group in the French National Assembly he was doing more valuable work than if he were studying dossiers. Also he was a pure Gaullist, and for every pure Gaullist there is always a certain idea of abnegation.

Labbe lived through all the episodes of Gaullism. Having served in a tank regiment in 1940, he joined the Resistance. But the voice that he listened to was the voice of de Gaulle speaking from London. When the General formed his own political party, the Rally of French People, Labbe joined it and became very active. He was elected a municipal councillor in his home town of Argenteuil, in the north-west of Paris, and with the return of the General to power he was elected deputy for the same area in 1958. Beaten by a Communist in the elections of 1962, he was elected deputy for Meudon in 1967, and held that seat until earlier this year, when ill- health caused him to stand down.

It was in 1973 that Labbe was elected the leader of the Gaullists in the Assembly (they were then known as the Union des Democrates pour le Republique). This was a crucial moment. The following year the Gaullists split. With the death of President Pompidou two Gaullists, Jacques Chaban-Delmas and Pierre Messmer, each claimed that they were the rightful candidates to succeed him, while a third, Chirac, chose to support Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who was the eventual winner. When Chirac was made Prime Minister there were those in the party who regarded him as a traitor, but Labbe prevented any further disintegration and organised support for him. As relations between Chirac and Giscard deteriorated, Labbe supported Chirac and emphasised the importance of the party in the Assembly. 'Nothing can be done without us,' he said, 'we can press the button whenever we like.'

In December 1976 Chirac organised a gigantic meeting and formed the Rassemblement pour la Republique. Some time after this Chirac got rid of his advisers and made Labbe his political councillor. Labbe knew that this was no easy appointment. One of his predecessors had warned him how difficult it was to work with Chirac, who had a tendency to do the opposite to that which he was advised to do. But Labbe accepted his new responsibilities with characteristic determination, and most people believe that he was very important in keeping the party together and restraining its impulsive leader.

But Chirac and Labbe did not always agree. For Labbe, Giscard was the enemy, but at times Chirac seemed prepared to re-open negotiations with him. Raymond Barre (who had succeeded Chirac as Prime Minister in 1976) was a rival whom Labbe believed could be enticed into the Gaullist ranks and thereby neutralised, but Chirac did not follow his advice. One of his enemies was Simone Veil, who was always placed high in the opinion polls and whose experience in a concentration camp entitled her to widespread respect. But not from Labbe. 'The more she speaks', he claimed, 'the more she makes people anti-Semitic.'

Last year, Labbe was opposed to the Maastricht Treaty, but the greatest difference came in 1986, when the opposition to Mitterrand won the elections and Chirac agreed to become Prime Minister. Labbe was vigorously opposed to this first experiment in 'co-habitation' and said so publicly. It was not surprising that he was relieved of his post as leader of the Gaullists in the Assembly. Some of Chirac's friends have said that he had intended to get rid of him for many years, but that he had lacked the courage to do something unpleasant. It is more likely that he found Labbe extremely useful.

Like all party managers, most of Labbe's work was in committee rooms or in party meetings. But one occasion was different. On 30 May 1968 there was a great rally of support for de Gaulle in the Champs Elysees. The atmosphere, heavy with student disorders and industrial strikes, changed. Labbe was one of the chief organisers.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore