Friday, September 11, 2009

UMP's 'Macaca Moment' Still Some Way Off

Brice Hortefeux, Nicolas Sarkozy's former chief Immigrant Hunter, and the current Minister for the Interior, is the centre of a row surrounding a 'bit of slagging' he indulged in at the UMP université de l'été (a party-political version of the Irish 'summer school'). A young French-Arab party member, Amine Benalia-Brouch, is on the end of some ribbing by Hortefeux, who remarks approvingly that he 'eats pork and drinks beer' and doesn't 'correspond to the prototype.' At the end Hortefeux says "Il en faut toujours un. Quand il y en a un, ça va. C'est quand il y en a beaucoup qu'il y a des problèmes." ("You always need one. When there's one, it's fine. It's when there's a lot of them that there are problems.")

Facing calls for his resignation, Hortefeux says it's all a misunderstanding, saying that he was joking about Mr Benalis-Brouch's Auvergnat origins rather than his Arab ones. I can buy that, but Hortefeux's off-colour banter is still more Ann Winterton than Larry David, playing to the heaving, bullying mentality of the crowd surrounding him. There's an ugly air of hazing about the incident, even if Mr Benalia-Brouch says he wasn't at all offended. I'm sure he's experienced far worse in his 22 years and upon joining the UMP, he had surely resolved to put up with at least some of it. Not that that excuses Hortefeux's comments, which had more than a touch of Michael Steele's recent inept efforts to draw Black Americans to the Republican Party. Hortefeux's remarks are more xenophobic than racist but they prove what most of us knew when Sarkozy was on the verge of getting elected: that the rise of a Sarkozy-UMP government would lead to the decomissioning and sidelining of Jean Marie Le Pen and the Front National, but not the defeat of the Frontiste credo. The central tenet of Front National thinking, that Arabs, Muslims and Africans have no place in France has its echo in the current government. Forget about Rama Yade, Rachida Dati, Fadela Amara and other cosmetic cabinet appointments: the UMP is still overwhelmingly the party of the white French bourgeoisie. And they don't intend to open up to anyone different any time soon.

I suspect Hortefeux will ride out the calls for his resignation but one wonders when the UMP finally undergoes its 'Macaca moment' and finds it might have to rethink its willful exclusion of those whom it has managed to get by well enough well enough until now. Of course, Sarkozy and Hortefeux's preferred way to stave off that evil day is to track down and expel 30,000 of the blighters every year.

Le dérapage de Brice Hortefeux à l'université d'été de l'UMP -