Sarkozy sidelines young black cabinet minister

First overtly gay politician is appointed to head French department of culture

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a larger than expected government reshuffle last night, sidelining his emblematic, young black minister Rama Yade and giving France its first overtly gay cabinet minister.

Six ministers were fired and two departed for the European Parliament, including the controversial justice minister, Rachida Dati. The most prominent casualties were the culture minister, Christine Albanel, dumped for failing to deliver a law on illegal internet downloading, and the former France rugby team coach, Bernard Laporte, dropped to make way for Mme Yade's humiliating, sideways move from human rights to sport.

President Sarkozy had hoped to anger his political opposition by capturing another left-wing minister as part of his policy of political and racial "ouverture". In the end, he had to settle for recruiting a celebrated, left-wing name, but not a politician.

The film-maker, writer and TV presenter Frédéric Mitterrand, 61, nephew of the late President François Mitterrand, will become culture minister, a very high-profile job in France. This appointment, welcomed by many in the artistic world, will irritate the Catholic, conservative right. M. Mitterrand is a vociferous campaigner for homosexual rights and a columnist in the gay magazine, Tétu.

The reshuffle left most major posts, including Prime Minister François Fillon, foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and finance minister Christine Lagarde, untouched. The interior minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie moves to justice to replace Mme Dati. She is replaced at the politically sensitive interior ministry by a Sarkozy childhood friend and loyalist, Brice Hortefeux.

President Sarkozy also took the opportunity to settle a few scores and punish ministers who had defied or disappointed him. Rama Yade, 32, the strikingly beautiful, Senegalese-born junior foreign minister for human rights, was one of the great symbols of M. Sarkozy's "ouverture" to racial minorities, women and youth when she was first appointed in 2007. She has since angered the President by taking an independent line on Libya and China and refusing to be sent into internal exile to the European Parliament.

So much symbolism was heaped on Mme Yade's appointment, and her personal popularity is so great, that the president dared not fire her outright. The move to sport – and the abolition of her old human rights job – will however be interpreted as a punishment.

With Mme Dati also leaving the cabinet in semi-disgrace, the Sarkozy experiment with positive discrimination in ministerial office has come to a rapid and unfortunate conclusion. Mme Dati's departure had been ordained since February when she agreed, reluctantly, to run in the European Parliament elections.

Socialist politicians crowed last night that the President's policy of party-political "ouverture" was also over. Michel Sapin, a leading member of the Parti Socialiste, said the President had been forced "to play with family names" because he could not attract any more defectors from the Left.

The firing of Bernard Laporte, the former France rugby coach, is equally a setback for M. Sarkozy's policy of ignoring deserving claimants in his own centre-right party and reaching out to non-politicians. M. Laporte is generally agreed to have been a failure as sports minister.

The new government marks a return to the more normal spoils system with the promotion of several centre-right politicians who felt badly treated when ignored in 2007. The most obvious example is the parliamentarian, Pierre Lellouche, who regards himself as a great expert on international affairs. He was overlooked two years ago but is promoted to Europe minister.

President Sarkozy and M. Fillon had been forecast to make only minor changes after a relatively good showing for their centre-right party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), in the European elections. Other changes included the appointment of the centrist, Michel Mercier as agriculture minister, replacing Michel Barnier who goes to the European Parliament. Xavier Darcos moves from education to work and social relations, replaced by the government spokesman, Luc Chatel.

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

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 General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week