Left and right march into row over militarism of Bastille Day

An off-the-cuff remark by the Norwegian-born presidential candidate, Eva Joly, has plunged France into a four-day orgy of patriotic moralising and political name-calling.

Why, asked the official Green candidate, does France insist on celebrating its national day with a military parade? How can tanks and fighter bombers represent the republican values of liberty, equality and fraternity? Why not have a "citizens' parade" on Bastille Day instead, she argued?

Ms Joly's remarks initially provoked indignation from rival politicians of both right and left, who said her comments were insensitive as last Thursday's parade came the day after six French soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

Then the centre-right Prime Minister, François Fillon, set off another political depth charge. He recalled that Ms Joly, 67, had come to France from Norway as an au pair in 1963. Her comments, he said, proved that she had "not been steeped for very long in French traditions, French values and French history". In other words, Ms Joly, the official Green-Europe Ecology candidate in next spring's election, was not truly French.

Cue another explosion of indignation from politicians of the left. Mr Fillon, normally a moderate and cautious man, was, they said, invading the xenophobic territory of the far right. To suggest that foreign-born French citizens were "unFrench" was to trample on French republican values.

The Socialist Party leader, and presidential candidate, Martine Aubry, said yesterday that if she was already President, she would have fired Mr Fillon for remarks which were "not clumsy, but shameful".

The row entered its fourth day yesterday, leading all news bulletins and newspapers. Other ministers came to Mr Fillon's defence and junior members of the governing centre-right party plunged into outright anti-Norwegianism. Lionel Tardy, a centre-right member of parliament, said: "It's time for Eva Joly to go back to Norway."

The virulence of the debate foreshadows an election campaign in which both President Nicolas Sarkozy and the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, are expected to raise issues of "identity", from immigration to "dual nationality".

Ms Joly was once a tenacious and much-feared investigating magistrate in France but is an inexperienced politician. She seemed to be stunned at first by the reaction to her off-the-cuff comment. She said yesterday that she was not "anti-military" and had the "most profound respect" for soldiers who risked their lives for France.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific