French MP François-Michel Lambert will quit if he’s forced to fire his wife. She -- Marjorie -- has been his parliamentary assistant for the last 5 years. Now that France’s new law on the moralization of political life has come into effect, he is obliged to fire her. But Lambert thinks the measure is wretched, going as far as to tweet that "in 1792 we sent people with blue blood to the guillotine, and in 2017 we send people with elected blood to the guillotine".
Lambert has a flair for drama, but he does have a point when he complains that MPs will simply find other ways to hire their relatives -- mainly by asking other MPs to "hire mine and I’ll hire yours".
However, the law was not born out of thin air. The French political system is shrouded in an aura of excess and corruption, especially after “Penelopegate”, when it emerged that presidential candidate François Fillon’s British wife was being paid over 4,000 EUR per month for very little, if any, work. (No one directly criticized him for having married a British woman, but embezzling French funds to finance the luxuries of a Brit may have salted the wound -- although this is a purely speculative assumption on my part.)
One can only surmise this was the cause of the Fillon flour-bombings. The gesture was symbolically charged; in French 'rolling someone in flour' means to short-change them. (Ironically, Fillon commented the incident by saying: "I hope the flour was French, at least." But once again, I digress.)
Perhaps the moral of the story is to be wary of overly simple solutions. By implementing a blanket ban on employing family members, French authorities may deprive hard-working parliamentary assistants of a well-deserved salary, or even lead to the break up of a fair few honorable marriages by forcing MPs to hire comely strangers. But the people of France are visibly on the warpath with corruption -- more flour-bombings loom on the horizon.
-- Lea Berriault