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Monday, 9 May 2011

Start the Week's Mitterrand howler

Today's Start the Week on Radio 4 involved a lengthy discussion of the legacy of President Francois Mitterrand. Denis MacShane said that the French president is both head of state and head of government, unlike in the United States where the two are separate. Ouch! France has a president and a prime minister (the latter of whom is head of government), while the American President is head of state and government. This was not just a  slip of the tongue, either, as there was then a few minutes' discussion about the supposed powers of the French presidency, predicated on MacShane's mistaken comments. So, on a heavyweight BBC discussion programme, there was a discussion for several minutes based on a false premise, with Andrew Marr saying nothing to correct matters. Forgive my pedantry, but that is just sloppy. Especially in the context of Francois Mitterrand, who, as as a Socialist president, engaged in "cohabitation" with a centre-right government led by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac - that being one of the most important aspects of his legacy, and a clear reminder that the French president is not all-powerful. Ah well. Never mind...

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