PM's wife uncomfortable with trappings of power

21st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - The British-born wife of France's new prime minister Francois Fillon may now be part of the Paris political elite, but she said in an interview published Sunday that she would rather be elsewhere.

LONDON, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - The British-born wife of France's new prime minister Francois Fillon may now be part of the Paris political elite, but she said in an interview published Sunday that she would rather be elsewhere.

"I'm just a country peasant, this is not my natural habitat," Penelope Fillon joked to Britain's Sunday Telegraph after her husband's nomination to the top job in the French government this week.

But Mrs Fillon, who was born and raised as Penelope Kathryn Clarke near Abergavenny in south Wales, admitted she will now have to make more of an effort.

"I don't refuse to go to dinners or events. But it's not what I particularly like doing. I am not a Paris party animal. I'm the sort of person who prefers sitting at the back of the room observing and listening to others," she said.

The 51-year-old mother of five said she also does not relish the title of France's "second lady" behind new French President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife Cecilia.

"People ask me what my new role is but there isn't one. I'm not like Cherie Blair (wife of outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair)," she added.

"Once this week is over everything will die down and I will be able to carry on as before. I don't get recognised in the street and I hope not to. That would horrify me.

"In fact because my husband gets recognised I often walk on the other side of the road, which I suppose isn't very nice of me."

Mrs Fillon, a trained lawyer, told the newspaper she prefers being at the couple's 12th century chateau near Le Mans, western France, with her children and five horses than in glitzy Paris.

With home now the prime minister's official residence, the Hotel Matignon, she said she is "just camping" there, given her experience of the sometimes precarious nature of political appointments.

Asked about the new world she will inhabit, she said: "Nicolas Sarkozy was born wanting to be president. He is incredibly driven and this is visible.

"What Francois appreciates about him is that he is totally open and doesn't do things behind people's backs.

"He is straight down the line, which (former president) Jacques Chirac was not at all. Sarkozy knows what he wants but will listen to an opinion and a good argument."

She said her husband's approach was "calmer" and he was very aware of the need for dialogue and compromise.

"He's just as determined but he, unlike most politicians, does not have the killer instinct. He has kept a sort of decency about him, which is a good thing as a human being but perhaps not so good ambition-wise."

But she was more guarded about Cecilia Sarkozy's decision not to vote in the presidential elections: "Hmm, the vote thing was a bit strange.

"I went through all the rigmarole of getting French nationality just so I could vote 15 years ago, so it did seem rather odd."


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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