A maverick with a social conscience

18th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 18, 2007 (AFP) - Jean-Louis Borloo, who was named France's new economy and finance minister on Friday, is a political maverick who earned a reputation as the social conscience of the outgoing centre-right government.

PARIS, May 18, 2007 (AFP) - Jean-Louis Borloo, who was named France's new economy and finance minister on Friday, is a political maverick who earned a reputation as the social conscience of the outgoing centre-right government.

The 56-year-old former lawyer has been minister of labour and social cohesion since 2004, instituting a social action programme which he claims played a large part in the recent fall in unemployment.

In the presidential election campaign that culminated in rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy's victory on May 6, Borloo waited till the last minute before backing Sarkozy and conditioned his support on the promise of a "Marshall Plan" to help job creation and urban regeneration in poor high-immigration suburbs.

Borloo studied law and finance and in his early 30s ran a legal practice that specialised in buying up failed businesses. He became reputedly the best-paid lawyer in France, being one of the few at the time who could read a company's balance-sheet.

Among Borloo's clients at the time was the tycoon Bernard Tapie, who encouraged him in his next venture which was to take over Valenciennes football club in the north of France.

After rescuing the club from bankruptcy, Paris-born Borloo was in 1989 elected mayor of Valenciennes -- a town reeling from the effects of deindustrialisation. His experiences there as mayor and then member of parliament prepared him for his subsequent work in government.

After Jacques Chirac was re-elected president in 2002, Borloo was named junior minister for the town and launched a nationwide plan to overhaul delapidated social housing.

Unmistakeable for his unkempt look and shaggy mop of hair, Borloo has a ruggedly independent streak.

After starting in politics in the short-lived Ecology Generation party, he joined the centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF) -- serving for a time as spokesman for its leader Francois Bayrou.

In 2002 he defected with many other UDF deputies to Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). He is now head of France's oldest political party -- the Radical Party -- which is affiliated to the UMP.

Borloo is married to the television news presenter Beatrice Schoenberg.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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