Delors backing boosts Jospin poll showing

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The Independent Online
The Socialist Party's prospects in the coming French presidential election took a turn for the better yesterday with the announcement that Jacques Delors would chair the support committee of the party's candidate, Lionel Jospin, and take an active part in the campaign. Mr Delors' daughter, Martine Aubry, a formidable politician in her own right, is to be Mr Jospin's official spokesperson.

The announcement was the second piece of good news for the Socialists in 24 hours. It followed the publication of three opinion polls late on Tuesday, all showing the gap between Mr Jospin and the right-wing favourite, Edouard Balladur, starting to narrow. The polls were taken before Mr Balladur presented his campaign manifesto - a document whose reception has been distinctly low-key - allowing Socialists to hope for an even better showing in the next polls.

Mr Delors' decision to give his active backing to the Socialist Party candidate will greatly help Mr Jospin's cause and that of party unity. Mr Delors had himself been the Socialists' favoured presidential candidate while still head of the European Commission, but he decided halfway through December not to stand.

The party has spent the past 10 days frantically trying to organise its campaign from its palatial headquarters close to the National Assembly on the Left Bank. Now that it has a candidate, it is said to be receiving offers of help and donations by the thousand. For his part, Mr Jospin, 57, has had a face-lift: new, television-friendly glasses in place of his hornrims; a new trench-coat; a slightly more stylish haircut; and a more aggressive interview technique. He has also taken a sleek "loft"- style apartment in the Latin quarter to be the focus of his campaign, a decision much remarked upon for the "modernist" image it lends to his campaign.

Meanwhile Danielle Mitterrand, the wife of the outgoing President, has spoken for the first time about her husband's mistress and illegitimate daughter and fiercely defended his political record against his detractors. In a highly unusual interview which appears today in the weekly magazine VSD, Mrs Mitterrand spoke about the President's mistress and his daughter, Mazarine, the first photographs of whom appeared in Paris-Match last year. She said she had reassured her husband when the pictures were published, saying: "don't worry, this will only bring us closer because we have to stick together... you'll see, there'll be lots of little Mazarines in the next few months, it's a pretty name.''