Alice Jones: French dinosaurs make our MPs look modern



Who knew that suburban transport links could be so sexy? When Cécile Duflot stood up to talk about plans for the development of Greater Paris in the French parliament this week, she was greeted by a primal wave of phwoaring, hooting and ooh la la-ing so loud her questioner had to intervene and tell the drooling masses to calm down, dears.

The rumble began as soon as France's new housing minister stood up from her seat. By the time she had mounted the podium and taken a firm grip of the mic, the house of power was vibrating with the sound of 100 men rubbing their thighs, smacking their lips and twirling their moustaches. Had Duflot picked up her copy of Cinquante Nuances de Gris and started to read from that instead of her ministerial portfolio? No. She was simply talking while wearing a dress. This may be the country that banned the burqa but outlawing speeches in skirts is going a bit far.

The dress in question – since we're now apparently talking about the MP's clothes – was a bright, blue-and-white floral number, below the knee with long sleeves and a demure neckline. But even if it had been a couple of inches shorter, or a mite tighter, Duflot should have been allowed to answer the question put to her without having to wait for her fellow adult politicians to damp down their ardent loins first.

Criticised for their chauvinism, the male politicians were quick to defend themselves. The mating calls were simply their way of "paying homage to the beauty of this woman", said Jacques Myard. "We weren't booing her, we were admiring her," said Patrick Balkany. Watch and learn, David Cameron: it's fine to be sexist so long as you tell the woman you're patronising that she's pretty too. Next time Duflot gets up, perhaps they could shower her with roses, maybe leave a box of posh chocolates on her seat. Women love chocolates.

Duflot's dress is a symbol of a sexism that infects the French parliament, not insidiously but openly, with pride, even. The percentage of female MPs has risen from a woeful 18 per cent to a pitiful 27 per cent after last month's elections, but the few women who have made it into power are most likely to be heard speaking out about paternalistic colleagues or the sleazy remarks that come every time they dare to wear a skirt. It makes the House of Commons look like a bastion of radical feminism.

Another MP, Laurent Wauquiez, claimed that a male wearing a neon orange tie would have elicited the same catcalls. "If she didn't want us to take an interest in her, then she shouldn't have changed her look," added Balkany, digging himself an ever deeper grave. "Perhaps she only wore the dress so that we wouldn't listen to what she had to say." Perhaps. Or perhaps it's the job of an elected representative of the people (man or woman) to be professional and to abide by workplace rules, no matter what they might find distracting. To have their minds, perhaps, on highe r things than hemlines.

Now that's a dining fad too far

For Londoners, unlikely restaurant fads are as much a fact of daily life as rudeness and signal failures. You can choose to ignore the weekly bulletins heralding the latest eating trend, or you can, like me, devour them all greedily. Small plates? Great. I'll have 14 please. A restaurant that serves only one food type? Perfect. I was definitely in the mood for Peruvian raw fish anyway. No reservations? No worries. Show me the back of the queue. The latest restaurant "experience" to come to the capital is to "pay before you eat". A new system, Bookingrid, will allow you to pay in advance for a table, putting down a non-refundable minimum spend per head. Like airline tickets, prices will vary depending on how ahead of time you make your reservation and if you want to dine at a peak time. If you cancel your booking, you lose all of your cash. Patrons have been happy to serve the whims of restaurants for a while now, but this sounds like a fad too far for them to stomach.

We're not really a nation of naysayers

An article in The New York Times yesterday poked fun at the Eeyoreish attitude most Britons appear to have to the impending Games. "The news media have added to the general sense of wretchedness with numerous we-told-you-so accounts of mishaps, glitches and grandiose plans gone awry," it sniped before laying into our weather. So here's a little ray of sunshine for you, New York. This week, following gigs by Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Madonna in Hyde Park, the roads around Marble Arch were closed to traffic, allowing concert-goers to roam at will across Park Lane – and into the much-debated Olympic lanes. The red tarmac strips painted with the five rings (one place you are permitted to use them) have become something of an attraction in their own right as they lie empty, awaiting next week's bigwigs and limos. Teenagers have been sitting down in the middle of them and posing for pictures to upload to Facebook. And one Independent columnist may have taken the opportunity to skip up and down one a few times, too. Who says we don't know how to get into the spirit of things?

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: Lead Quality Auditor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Identifying and communicating issues raised, p...

Recruitment Genius: Weekend Catering Supervisor - Temporary

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To be responsible for working with the Caterin...

Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - Infrastructure / VMWare - Hertfordshire

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established industry leading business is l...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Hertfordshire -Large Established Business

£22000 - £28000 per annum + study support, gym: Ashdown Group: A large busines...

Day In a Page

Read Next

The TV non-debate: Miliband does better than expected, but not better than Cameron

John Rentoul
Nigel Farage is pictured leaving the pub after the invasion by protesters  

How does terrifying my family count as ‘good-natured protest’?

Nigel Farage
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss