French MP Harlem Désir set to become first black man to lead a major European political party
The French Euro MP Harlem Désir appears certain next month to become the first black man to lead a major European political party.
After weeks of wrangling, Mr Désir, 52, was today named as the official choice of the hierarchy of the French Socialist party to replace Martine Aubry as its “first secretary” or national leader. The ruling party’s annual conference, set to take place between 26 and 28 October, is expected to endorse the choice overwhelmingly, giving Mr Désir a position once held by the late President François Mitterrand, the former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and the current President, François Hollande.
Mr Désir is seen as a safe pair of hands and competent administrator rather than a man likely to emerge as Mr Hollande’s successor as a “French Obama” or the Next Big thing on the Left. His choice is, nonetheless, a significant event in a country in which racial minorities have only recently started to play leading political roles.
Born “Jean-Philippe” in Paris in 1959, with a West Indian father and a Jewish mother, Mr Désir emerged in the 1980s as a Trotskyist, student and anti-racist activist. He changed his first name to “Harlem” in homage to African-American political leaders.
Mr Désir’s nomination today by the outgoing first secretary Ms Aubry and the Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault follows weeks of in-fighting by the many clans and political tendencies of the Socialist party. His final, defeated rival was Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, who was once a lieutenant of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the disgraced former head of the International Monetary Fund.
Under undemocratic rules adopted by the Socialist to avoid the vicious, internal conflicts seen in the past, there will be no leadership campaign. The 175,000 party members will vote to endorse – or not - the choice of the party leadership on 18 October and the results will be announced at the national conference in Toulouse eight days later.
Despite his rabble-rousing beginnings, Mr Désir, has long been seen as a loyal and consensual party apparatchik rather than a political thinker or potential president. Although polls suggested that he was the overwhelming choice of party members, he was today described by Socialist parliamentarians as a “leader minimo” and “first secretary default”. In a rare flash of humour, Mr Désir said of himself recently: “Whenever people talk about me, they say: ‘he was once young and handsome. Now he is serious and a pain in the arse’.”
Revealed: Stunning new images show gold-plated, ultra-luxurious Riyadh metro station that Saudi king has ordered to be built
World news in pictures
Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
Oklahoma tornado latest: Rescue effort nears an end after President Obama pledges support for 'as long as it takes' to rebuild the suburb of Moore
Video emerges of Pope Francis reportedly performing an exorcism
- 1 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 2 Swedes set up 'ultimate Viking movie'
- 3 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
- 4 China agrees to impose carbon targets by 2016
- 5 Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
Excellent Salary Package - £60K to £120K: Austen Lloyd: We have an exciting op...
£200 - £250 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Java Developer - Urgent Requirem...
£70000 - £95000 per annum + Bonus, flexible working hours, remote work: Progre...
£50000 - £56000 per annum + Benefits package, flexible working hours: Progress...