Bad hair days for François Hollande over €10,000 coiffeur bill
The French government called on former European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday to drop plans to take a senior job at U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs, part of a growing outcry against the move.
The bank said last week it had hired Barroso, a conservative Portuguese ex-premier who headed the European Union’s executive arm from 2004-2014, to be an adviser and non-executive chairman of its international business.
French European Affairs Minister Harlem Desir said the “scandalous” move raised questions about the EU’s conflict of interest rules and said they needed to be tightened.
“It’s a mistake on the part of Mr. Barroso and the worst disservice that a former Commission president could do to the European project at a moment in history when it needs to be supported and strengthened,” Desir said during a question and Wispy, thinning and suspiciously free of grey, François Hollande’s boring hairstyle has never been held to much scrutiny, unlike his wonky ties, which have their own website.
But now the balding pate of the French president is at the centre of an embarrassing scandal dubbed coiffeurgate after the weekly paper Le Canard Enchaîné revealed that his personal hairdresser is on contract for almost €10,000 a month, paid from the public purse.
The publication of the contract with the hairdresser, named as Olivier B, has sparked a row over extravagant spending by a Socialist president who once liked to see himself as “Mr Normal”.
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“I can understand the questions, I can understand that there are judgments,” said the government spokesman and Hollande ally Stephane Le Foll as he confirmed the hairdresser’s salary of €9,895 (£8,265) a month.
“Everyone has their hair done, don’t they?” said Le Foll, known for his own bouffant style. “This hairdresser had to abandon his salon and he’s on tap 24 hours a day.”
The Canard Enchaîné reported that in addition to his salary, Hollande’s hairdresser was entitled to a housing allowance and other family benefits. He never had a stand-in to replace him and demands on him were so tough that he had “missed the births of his children”.
The hairdresser – employed since Hollande took office and accompanying him on most of his foreign trips – is contracted to “maintain absolute secrecy about his work and any information he may have gathered both during and after his contract”.
Sébastien Huyghe, a spokesman for Nicolas Sarkozy’s rightwing Les Républicains, called Hollande’s hairdressing habits “the frenzy of someone who has lost touch with reality”.
The outrage from politicians was matched only by the fast-trending Twitter hashtag #CoiffeurGate in which people offered their ideas for radical new styles that might provide Hollande with more value for money, suggesting hairdos borrowed from Margaret Thatcher and the Queen as well as the footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Hollande’s modest combover, although often drenched by rain and buffeted by wind at public events, had never previously garnered the same attention as the heavily invested hairstyles of the US presidential candidate Donald Trump and Britain’s Boris Johnson.
But the row has annoyed even Hollande’s party. Heavy spending at the Elysée Palace has been a key political issue for years. The former president Sarkozy was nicknamed President Bling Bling. The government spokesman was quick to point out that the operational budget of the Elysée was cut by 15-20% after Hollande took over from Sarkozy in 2012.
But the Socialist MP René Dosière, who has campaigned on cutting Elysée spending, said it was regrettable that the hairdressing incident would obscure real spending cuts that had been made.
In the current tense political climate in France, where several of the key candidates for next year’s presidential election are yet to be decided, it was not long before others rushed to stress their own DIY approach to hair.
The office of the prime minister, Manuel Valls, said he did not have an official hairdresser, sometimes went to the barber shop and paid his own way.
Campaigners for Alain Juppé, the 70-year-old former prime minister who is leading the primary race to be the right’s presidential candidate, saw it as a chance to big up his baldness. “Here’s a problem which won’t arise with Alain Juppé!” tweeted former minister Benoist Apparu, on Juppé’s team.
Men’s hair has proved a sensitive issue in international politics, even before Trump’s indescribable golden arrangement, referred to by one paper as “Norwegian bunch grass”. The Republican party’s presumptive nominee once tweeted: “As everybody knows, but the haters & losers refuse to acknowledge, I do not wear a “wig.” My hair may not be perfect but it’s mine.”
The disgraced former US vice-presidential contender John Edwards once reimbursed his campaign $800 to cover what aides said was the cost of two haircuts by a Beverly Hills barber.
In 2010, the then Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s self-funded hair transplant was ridiculed by Bill Gates during a blistering attack on Italy’s poor foreign aid record.
In a clear reference to the notoriously image-conscious Berlusconi, the MICROSOFT founder turned philanthropist told Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Rich people spend a lot more money on their own problems, like baldness, than they do to fight malaria.”
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