Fight for the French right: François Fillon goes head-to-head with Nicolas Sarkozy
Ex-Prime Minister battles with former ally for leadership of the UMP
The former French Prime Minister François Fillon has declared war on his ex-boss Nicolas Sarkozy in a battle for the vacant leadership of the French right.
A predictable showdown between the one-time partners has been accelerated by the behaviour of the nominally “retired” former President Mr Sarkozy, who has taken to presenting himself as France’s lost hero and saviour-in-waiting. The usually understated Mr Fillon, 59, has ripped into Mr Sarkozy as a man whose personal power games threaten to discredit their centre-right party and hand the next presidential election to President François Hollande.
“No one has the right to say: ‘I am the only solution…” The old days of self-anointed leaders are over,” Mr Fillon told a party meeting in the south of France. In a private conversation afterwards, Mr Fillon told supporters that he would – if necessary – stand against Mr Sarkozy in the first round of the next presidential election in 2017. Their party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) has agreed to hold a primary election in 2016 to choose its presidential candidate. However, Mr Sarkozy implied this week that he might launch an independent bid to return to the Elysée Palace as a candidate of national salvation “not limited to the right”.
In his speech at la Grande-Motte near Montpellier, Mr Fillon broke all pretence of continuing friendly relations with Mr Sarkozy, the man he served as Prime Minister from 2007 to 2012. “The UMP cannot stand still. It cannot be placed in a deep freeze. It cannot be placed in detention awaiting a man of destiny,” Mr Fillon said. “Waiting for the left to collapse is … the way to ensure failure.”
Mr Fillon is not the only senior figure in the UMP to be furious with Mr Sarkozy. The party faces possible bankruptcy because it has been refused €11m (£9.5m) in state funding following Mr Sarkozy’s failed 2012 presidential campaign.
The money has been withheld because the constitutional watchdog, the Conseil Constitutionnel, judged last week that Mr Sarkozy had exceeded the official spending limits and had presented misleading accounts.Far from being contrite, Mr Sarkozy and his supporters have attempted to use this ruling to revive the ex-President’s political fortunes by presenting him as the victim of a plot by an institutional elite.
On Monday Mr Sarkozy made a de facto return to politics by addressing a crisis meeting of the UMP’s political bureau. Far from apologising for the problems he had caused or offering a solution, he implicitly attacked Mr Fillon and presented himself as the only possible saviour of the centre-right – and of France.
“It was an incredible performance,” one UMP parliamentarian said in private. “Sarko lost us the election. He had his campaign accounts declared illegal. And we are supposed to pay the bill and applaud his speech.”
Opinion polls suggest that Mr Fillon is more likely to win broad support than Mr Sarkozy in 2017 but that the former President remains more popular with the UMP’s grassroots.
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 2 Kate Moss: Previously unpublished nude photo revealed by Mert and Marcus
- 4 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 5 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
Becky Watts: Four appear in court charged with hiding body parts after teenager's death
Isis 'bulldozes' Nimrud: UNESCO condemns destruction of ancient Assyrian site as a 'war crime'
Professor Brian Cox brands astrology-believing Tory MP David Tredinnick an 'outlier on the spectrum of reason'
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...
£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...
£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...
£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...