The rise and rise of a smooth operator - World - News - The Independent

The rise and rise of a smooth operator

France/ leadership star

THERE was a moment five months ago when the world discovered there was more to Alain Jupp than a formidable brain and an immaculately groomed exterior. As France's Foreign Minister, he had just returned with Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, from Belgrade, where they had tried yet again to enlist the help of Serbia's President, Slobodan Milosevic, in brokering a Bosnian peace settlement.

The Paris press commentaries were scathing. "Sell-out!" they cried. Daniel Schneidermann, television columnist for Le Monde, went so far as to compare Mr Jupp and Mr Hurd with Edouard Daladier and Neville Chamberlain, Hitler's appeasers at Munich.

Asked on television for his reaction, Mr Jupp cast diplomacy to the winds and exploded in uncharacteristic anger: "I prefer to go to Belgrade, Budapest and other places to try to move things forward and convince the different parties than to sit on my arse in Paris writing impassioned articles that lead nowhere. History will decide where courage lies and who is being demagogic."

It is a tribute to his determination and political skills that Mr Jupp's career has flourished despite his association with the Western policy fiasco in former Yugoslavia. Foreign Minister since March 1993, Mr Jupp, 49, is expected to be named on Thursday as President Jacques Chirac's prime minister - the second most powerful person in France. His appointment will represent another step in a seemingly effortless progression up the political ladder that began with a job as a Chirac speechwriter in 1976 and could culminate in a successful run for the presidency in the next election in 2002.

Mr Jupp is a fast-track Gaullist on the movement's moderate wing, an energetic, incisive, prematurely bald and twice-married intellectual for whom the phrase "a master of his brief" could have been invented. He was the star of the French show at the Gatt world trade talks, where his grasp of the technical issues surrounding audiovisual and agricultural trade weakened a US attempt to make French markets more open. He also has a cool head in a crisis, as was demonstrated during last December's hijacking of an Air France aircraft by Algerian Islamic militants. While the hardline Interior Minister, Charles Pasqua, wanted to storm the plane in Algiers, Mr Jupp persuaded the Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, to let the hijackers fly to France, where it would be easier to finish them off. Events proved him right.

Born in 1945, into a farming family in the Landes in southwestern France, he has the farmer's ability to sense what the weather will be like tomorrow and plan accordingly. He was one of the first members of Mr Balladur's outgoing government to make clear he would not support the Prime Minister in the presidential campaign, but would back Mr Chirac. Others, such as Mr Pasqua, picked the wrong man and are now checking into the political wilderness.

As the campaign progressed, Mr Jupp ranged beyond foreign affairs in his speeches, discussing the economic challenges facing France's future leaders and adding weight to his image. Once Mr Balladur was eliminated in the first round, Mr Jupp was dubbed prime minister- in-waiting, a media label neither he nor his aides did anything to discourage.

Under the constitutional system devised by Charles de Gaulle, the prime minister is very definitely subordinate to the president - a fact that Mr Chirac well knows, having had to resign as prime minister in 1976 over disagreements with the then president, Valry Giscard d'Estaing. Within these limits, however, Mr Jupp could prove one of the most influential prime ministers the Fifth Republic has seen since its birth in 1958.

Even if he gives up his temporary leadership of the Gaullist party, the Rally for the Republic (RPR), Mr Jupp will remain one of its dominant figures. He is also expected to run for mayor of Bordeaux - and win - in next month's municipal elections.

Within the national government, he is certain to continue playing a strong role in foreign policy. The three men being touted as his replacement at the Quai d'Orsay are all relative lightweights - the Education Minister, Francis Bayrou, the Housing Minister, Herv de Charette, and Charles Millon, the parliamentary floor leader of the centre-right Union for French Democracy (UDF).

However, the real test for Mr Jupp will centre on economic matters. Mr Chirac's first public pledges after winning on 7 May were to bring down unemployment and to tackle social deprivation. This will cost money, but Mr Jupp opposes measures that could hinder France's efforts to reduce its budget deficit and join Germany and other European Union countries in a single currency in 1999.

He is considered more enthusiastic about European monetary and political union than the President, and his stewardship of the government is intended to send reassuring signals to France's EU allies. But it is easy to see that his 20-year political friendship with Mr Chirac could come under strain as a result of the conflicting pressures of European integration and domestic French economic and social problems.

Like Mr Chirac, Mr Jupp was educated at the finest French colleges, including the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, a kind of incubation centre for presidents, prime ministers and other masters of the universe. He had no time for the excitable students who poured on to the streets in May 1968. Married before he was 21, he had a son and a daughter and was remarried in 1993 to Isabelle Legrand-Botin.

His association with Mr Chirac dates from 1976, when the future president founded the RPR to revive the Gaullist movement and provide a vehicle for his own ambitions. After Mr Chirac became mayor of Paris in 1977, Mr Jupp quickly took responsibility for the city's financial affairs.

He has done stints as a Euro- MP, as RPR secretary-general and as budget minister. A fluent English speaker, he was made foreign minister at at a time when the West had already been floundering in former Yugoslavia for 21 months. Though critical of US proposals for lifting the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims, he resembles Mr Chirac in that he is keen to see the US play a prominent part in European security matters.

The Chirac-Jupp team should be fascinating to watch: the impulsive seeking an equilibrium with the calculating, the visionary with the technocratic, the rough with the smooth. Few French prime ministers have lasted very long since Georges Pompidou (1962-68), but even if Mr Jupp is out within two years, he has bigger prizes to play for in the future.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
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

Primary Teacher

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Newcastle: Our clients are looking for...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

Supply teachers needed- Worthing!

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Supply teachers needed for va...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

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