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French President Francois Hollande caught having affair

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Poor old Francois Hollande. Dogged throughout his time in office by his bumbling air, he has struggled to be taken seriously by the French public, despite his surprisingly hawkish foreign policy positions.

And now, French magazine Closer has painted an unmistakably comic picture of the French president nipping off on a scooter from the Elysee palace to carry on an affair with French actress Julie Gayet.

While rumours about the affair had been swirling on the web for some time, it is unusual for a French print publication to run such a story about a politician’s private life. Unlike the prurient British tabloids who would consider a story like this manna from heaven, the French media have always preserved the line between public and private.

Indeed Closer’s decision to publish seems to have united the French political spectrum behind Mr Hollande in a way nothing else on earth could possibly do. Even his bitter foe, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National, said "Everyone has the right to have their private life respected,", adding "As long as it doesn't cost the taxpayer a centime."

Hollande’s popularity has been in freefall since his election and the image of him scootering off to a romantic tryst is unlikely to do his credibility as a serious politician much good. And photos of his bodyguard delivering croissants to Ms Gayet’s front door ‘the morning after’ won’t do him many favours either.

"Around New Year's Day, a helmeted head of state joined the actress at her apartment, where he has got into the habit of spending the night,” wrote Closer on its website.

Mr Hollande has form in the affair department, leaving his former wife, the Socialist politician Segolene Royal for his current partner Valerie Trierweiler. The president slammed the ‘attack’ on his privacy and said that he was considering legal action against Closer.

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