The discreet lunch that threatens Hollande's top aide and former premier François Fillon

The fallout from a private lunch between President François Hollande’s chief of staff Jean-Pierre Jouyet and former President Nicolas Sarkozy's prime minister François Fillon last summer is threatening to develop into a full-blown scandal. At the meeting on June 24th Fillon is said to have asked the socialist administration to speed up legal investigations into his former boss and now political rival Sarkozy. Jouyet, who served in Fillon's right-wing government but who is a close personal friend of Hollande, later told two journalists of the conversation. When the reporters published the story in a book last week Jouyet at first denied the claim then backtracked and insisted that Fillon had indeed asked him to intervene in the affair. Fillon, however, who like Sarkozy wants to be the Right's 2017 presidential candidate, has angrily accused Jouyet of “lies” and says he is suing for defamation. Once more, say Stéphane Alliès, Ellen Salvi and Mathieu Magnaudeix, the Elysée finds itself at the centre of an embarrassing affair, this time with the president’s right-hand man in the firing line.

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It was supposed to be a friendly, informal lunch between two former government colleagues who knew each other well. But their chat in a private room at the upmarket Pavillon Ledoyen close to the Elysée Palace threatens to torpedo former right-wing prime minister François Fillon's presidential hopes for 2017 and weaken the position of President François Hollande's chief of staff Jean-Pierre Jouyet. It has already provoked yet another embarrassing affair at the heart of the Elysée itself.