His name has dominated political discussions and gossip in recent weeks. Would environment and energy minister Jean-Louis Borloo fulfil a dream, and be made the next prime minister of France in President Sarkozy's reshuffle, which was finally announced this weekend? In the event, François Fillon was re-appointed prime minister, leaving Borloo's political future uncertain.Was it all political bluff, or was there something that always made Borloo a prime-minsiterial candidate who never could be chosen?
The qualities claimed by Borloo's supporters were that he is strong on social issues, that his instincts as a centrist politician are inclusive, to bring together different sections of society, including trade unions.
But none of those opinions are shared by François Chérèque, general secretary of the CFDT and one of the most powerful trade union leaders in France. "I can see absolutely no 'social' side in someone who has not said a word about the blocking of social dialogue in the last six months," commented Chérèque, referring to the anger among French trade union anger at the way they feel the governments controversial pensions reforms were bulldozed through without proper consultation.
Chérèque also recalled that Borloo, 59, was the employment minister in 2006 when the government, under then prime minister Dominique de Villepin, tried to introduce a controversial and largely unpopular new work contract for young people called the CPE(Contrat de première embauche). It was eventually withdrawn after huge protests. "So we're used to Monsieur Borloo, who uses doublespeak, who says nothing when he has responsibilities," added Chérèque.
Borloo does not engage in re-writing history, or telling lies - he simply has a selective memory. Just as he loves to recall the time when he was mayor of Valenciennes, a town in the département of the Nord, where he discovered the real world, so too he has buried his previous existence as a wealthy commercial lawyer. Yes, he admits he was the lawyer for the controversial politician and shamed businessman Bernard Tapie for ten years. But that is all in the past; "I was thirty and I was a little twat," Borloo told L'Expansion magazine a decade ago in an attempt to draw a line under the period.
But that period has relevance today. Some of France's current billionaires started to make their fortune in the 1980s with the help of Borloo's legal firm. The current number two in the government was one of the important cogs in a financial system associated at the time with the Crédit Lyonnais the bank that nearly went bust in 1993. It was at this time, too, that Borloo amassed his own personal fortune, developed friendships and networks, and built the foundations of his political career, adopting the style and image of a dabbler, one that has served him so well.