Hollande is the least popular President in recent memory. After the Roma debacle, it's no surprise

The deportation of a Roma schoolgirl showed 'Flanby' at his weakest

Share

It’s official: François Hollande, the hapless French leader who has weathered a string of disasters since his election last May, is the least popular President in recent memory.

Monsieur Hollande now holds the dubious accolade of a 26 per cent approval rating - in which 97 per cent of right wingers responded negatively - thanks to a new poll from French firm BVA. It is the lowest result in the approval rating system’s 32-year-old history.

But in light of the President’s most recent blunder, an immigration row which has  left enemies comparing him to an idiotic King Solomon, it is hardly surprising - not least of all because Hollande was bested on this occasion by a 15-year old Roma girl.

The furore began in early October, when teenager Leonarda climbed onto her school bus in the sleepy Doubs region of eastern France, anticipating a day like any other. Instead the Kosovo-born Roma, who had fled to France with her family, found herself being dragged out of the bus by immigration police as stunned classmates looked on.

Within hours she was on a plane back to Kosovo with the rest of her family in tow - they had all been living illegally in France, which lists around 20,000 Romas among its population, for five years.

The spectacle was supposed to be part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants - the government’s desperate attempt to look tough on an issue driving scores of French voters to the extreme right. 

Instead it dealt a devastating blow to the government's credibility, rendering it divided and incompetent in the eyes of voters.

The notion that a young girl, French or otherwise, could be seized from a bus on the way to a school trip sent shockwaves across the nation. France’s Socialist Party-led government appeared to have crossed a rubicon by allowing police to violate the safe haven of schools, many of which bear the Revolutionary motto “Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood” above their gates. Within days of the teenager’s story hitting the news, students were swarming around the capital, protesting in the street and blocking schools in a bid to make the government overturn the decision.

Yet outside universities and the corridors of power, few seemed to agree - while the President’s political enemies circled around the Assemblé Nationale, a poll emerged showing nearly 80 per cent of the French population were unconcerned by Leonarda’s deportation. Other reports suggested the teenager was less than enamoured with the French school system anyway - she had played truant for over twenty days that year.

By either reversing the deportation or sticking by it, Hollande was certain to disappoint someone; somehow he managed to disappoint everyone: Leonarda is welcome to resume her studies in France, he said, but she must return alone.

It was supposed to be a cunning political manoeuvre, satisfying the demands of the leftist wing of his party as well as students on the streets. But it has only served to paint a farcical picture of Hollande’s government, where infighting and indecisiveness is now the norm. What should have been hailed as a judgement of Solomon on Hollande’s part left him humiliated after Leonarda, who was watching the address in Kosovo on a journalist's phone, immediately threw the offer back in his face.

This “Hollandaise compromise” - as his limp attempt to please everyone has since been dubbed - has also left the goal posts wide open for the emerging National Front, who now claim that Roma illegals will be their key issue in the upcoming municipal elections.

But what is perhaps most deplorable about this episode is not the ammunition it has handed to Marine Le Pen and her party, it is confirmation of just how apathetic Hollande must feel towards his own policies, another example of the President abandoning ship at the first sign of troubled waters.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Surveyor

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Support

£9000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

'You’re just jealous', and other common misconceptions about the Protein World advert

Hannah Atkinson
Dave Brown's cartoon for the 28 April edition of The Independent  

After five years of completely flaccid leadership, I'm glad something 'pumps up' David Cameron

Joe Sandler Clarke
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence