In Depth

Segolene Royal is back in wake of hateful Trierweiler's demise

Hatchets are buried, the musical chairs resume, and there's even talk that Julie Gayet will soon be gone

PRESIDENT Francois Hollande's 'revolving girls' policy has come full circle. In a spectacular piece of French political theatre, Segolene Royal, the glamorous mother of his four children, has returned from the political wilderness to a senior appointment in his new government, hastily put together in the wake of the Socialists' humiliation in last week's local elections.

Segolene's return to the centre of government was made possible by Hollande's decision to oust his live-in partner Valerie Trierweiler after his secret affair with actress Julie Gayet hit the headlines in January. 

During Trierweiler's doomed reign at the Elysee Palace, Segolene's name was not allowed to be mentioned. And in June 2012 she sent her now infamous tweet supporting Segolene's opponent in an important parliamentary election. 

Segolene was standing in La Rochelle and was due to be made Speaker of the House if she won. In the final run-off, it was between her and the "dissident" leftist, Olivier Falorni. 

In an act of malice shocking even by French standards, Trierweiler took it upon herself to tweet her 75,000-plus followers: "Courage to Olivier Falorni who has not been unworthy, who has battled alongside La Rochelle residents for many years with unselfish commitment." In other words, don't give it to Segolene.

Little wonder Le Monde today is headlining Royal's comeback 'La revanche de Segolene Royal' - Segolene's revenge.

She is now 60 and her career peak – when she was chosen as the 2007 Socialist presidential candidate but lost to Nicolas Sarkozy –is seven years behind her.

She returns as minister for the environment, sustainable development and energy. In the Cabinet pecking order, this puts her third behind the new prime minister, Manuel Valls, 51, the right-winger who replaces the short-lived Jean-Marc Ayrault, and foreign minister Laurent Fabius, one of the few to keep his job. 

Among the other new Cabinet names worth noting (but use pencil not ink, such is the fragile nature of Hollande's administration) is Arnaud Montebourg, a protectionist left-winger known as 'Monsieur Made in France', who becomes economy minister with oversight over industry and the digital economy. Expect fireworks in his department.

As for the French public, more concerned about the country's 11 per cent unemployment rate and the ever-rising cost of living, they can't stand any of Hollande's women: a recent poll showed 70 per cent were against Segolene getting a job in government, while only eight per cent of respondents to a January poll said they liked Trierweiler as First Lady.

The gossip to watch for - sorry, the next serious development to keep an eye on -  is whether the rapprochement with Segolene is purely political or also personal. Some are suggesting that M Hollande is ready to make sweet music again with Segolene and ditch Julie Gayet. Surely not?

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