John Lichfield: Feud between Socialist rivals turns nasty

Sibling rivalry can be poisonous in politics, as the Labour Party knows

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There are no hatreds like family hatreds. The last days of the Socialist presidential primary campaign exposed a profound, mutual revulsion between the two final candidates, Martine Aubry and François Hollande. In a TV debate on Wednesday night Ms Aubry, 60, employed the bizarre and rude word empapaouter (to cheat or, in slang, to bugger) to describe the allegedly dishonest programme of Mr Hollande. Amateur political psychoanalysts have pointed out that the most noteworthy part of that word may be "papa" or "daddy".

Ms Aubry's father is Jacques Delors, 86, former president of the European Commission. Ms Aubry – humorous, warm-hearted, choleric and dictatorial – has a complicated relationship with her dad. But what has this to do with Mr Hollande? Ms Aubry had a younger brother, Jean-Paul Delors, a journalist who died from leukaemia in 1982. In the next decade, Jacques Delors, French finance minister and then European Commission President, formed a close bond with a young French Socialist politician – François Hollande.

Some people, including Mr Hollande, used the expression "spiritual son" to describe their relationship. Senior Parti Socialiste figures say ill-feeling between Mr Hollande and Ms Aubry began at that time.

She came to believe that, even if unintentionally, Mr Hollande had substituted for her brother in her father's affections. Sibling rivalry can be poisonous in politics, as the Labour Party knows. The primary campaign is over. The Parti Socialiste says that it has now reverted to being one big and happy family. Peut-être.

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