The embattled French presidential hopeful on Monday promised to deliver a “shock treatment” of austerity and deregulation if elected, sticking to a free-market economic platform that has evoked comparisons with Margaret Thatcher.
But Mr. Fillon’s expensive taste in suits has become the latest problem for his presidential campaign, which has been sent off-course by allegations that have cast doubt over his ethics.
Drawing attention to potential conflicts of interest, the Journal du Dimanche newspaper revealed on Sunday that an unnamed friend of the candidate had written a €13,000 cheque last month “at Mr. Fillon’s request” to buy him two bespoke suits from a boutique in Paris’s expensive Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood.
On Wednesday he is expected to be placed under formal investigation — one step short of being charged — over suspicion of misusing more than €880,000 in state funds to employ his wife Penelope and children in fake jobs as aides.
On Monday he detailed economic measures that focused on curbing the state’s role to try and jolt the eurozone’s second-largest economy into quicker growth.
Largely sticking to the program he had outlined during his primary campaign, Mr. Fillon promised to cut half a million civil service jobs, save €100bn in annual public spending over five years, eliminate the 35-hour limit on the working week and grant companies €40bn in tax breaks.
“The French have had enough of constantly being screwed around by the state,” Mr. Fillon told Europe 1 radio, using the kind of frank language that helped him to win November’s primary.
But the former prime minister, with four decades in politics, is struggling to divert attention from allegations of conflicts of interest. As well as the probe into his family’s jobs, questions have emerged over the financial help provided to Mr. Fillon by Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, a billionaire entrepreneur who lent him €50,000 and employed Ms. Fillon as a literary adviser.
The latest revelations followed public outrage at the publication by the Republican party of a caricature of Emmanuel Macron, the new presidential favorite, with a hooked nose and a top hat that mirrored 1930s anti-Semitic propaganda. On Sunday Mr. Fillon apologized for the drawing and promised action against those involved.
Austerity Message Cannot Be Heard
- When you preach austerity, do you want to be seen in €13,000 suits?
- When you preach austerity, do you want to be under fraud investigation for paying your wife and kids €880,000 out of public money, for doing nothing?
- When you preach austerity, do you want to be under investigation for taking illegal loans?
- When doing points 1-3 above, how does it come across when you want to fire 500,000 civil service workers?
Adding fat to the fire, Fillon’s party posted an extremely unwise anti-Semitic picture of his opponent.
Right Message, Wrong Time, Exceptionally Poor Delivery
Fillon is of course correct about reducing the size of government and the burden on French businesses.
But his program would be a tough sell in socialistic France, even in the best of circumstances.
That is why I said Marine le Pen would have beaten Fillon.
Can le Pen beat Emmanuel Macron? I think she can, that is not to say she will.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock