There’s one French politician who’s having a busman’s holiday this summer. He is Jean Lassalle, a centrist deputy and former shepherd from the Pyrenees, also known as “the walking deputy”.
He’s criss-crossing France in an attempt to persuade the people he meets along the way to reconnect with politics. He says on his website that he is fighting “indifference”.
On Tuesday, the 120th day of his long march, after spending the weekend around Lyon he walked the 20 kilometres between Andrézieux-Bouthéon and Montbrison in central France. On his blog, he encourages people to join him for part of the journey, to offer him a bed for the night, or just to stop him and chat. He sends tweets to his followers along the way.
The 58-year-old deputy from the MoDem party, measuring 6ft 2in, cuts a striking figure. He was so tall as a child that he was subjected to cruel treatment by his schoolmates, which left him mute until the age of 12.
He still suffers from stomach ailments caused by a 39-day hunger strike in the French parliament in 2006, which he started to protest against the closure of a local factory. He called it off after the decision was reversed.
But he wants to bring to France. His latest consultative initiative, which sprang from his belief that “the policy of this country is dead and buried”, began in April.
Catherine Taconet, a teacher who caught up with him on a walk from Mâcon, said: “He’s a symbol. He shows that politicians shouldn’t be cut off from the people they represent.”