OK. So back in the autumn there was a plebiscite to choose the candidate for the centre-right party, which at the moment is called "Les Républicains" in a fine show of resistance to the inexorable march of American culture. The greatly loved mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, stood alongside François Fillon, considerably more right-wing, but who presented himself as the squeaky-clean candidate, resolutely and traditionally Roman Catholic and with a Welsh wife, Penelope.
Then came Penelopegate. French politicians are allowed to use parliamentary money to employ their family members as aides, secretaries etc. BUT it has to be for real work really done. M. Fillon had paid his wife a generous but not unreasonable salary amounting to something approaching a million euros over the years. Unfortunately an interview emerged where Mrs Fillon, who comes from the disputed territories of Monmouthshire, was asked if she helped François with his work. Her reply went something along the lines of "Goodness me no, I don't get involved in all that!".
M. Fillon says she had worked, and they could prove it. His accusers say that she had already proved that she had not worked. M. Fillon says that if he is investigated by a judge he will pull out of the presidential election. M. Fillon is duly investigated by a judge. "I will fight to the end", quoth Fillon. M. Fillon could face criminal charges. "I will fight to the end", quoth he once more. His allies, advisors, spokesmen, campaign chairmen are resigning from his campaign. His response? "I will fight to the end."
So the Republicans face the prospect of losing the presidential election.
Enter Madame Marine Le Pen. She is the candidate for the right-wing National Front, counting among her policies the abolition of the euro and the return of the franc, alongside other very popular anti-Brussels rhetoric.
Madame Le Pen is accused of using European Parliamentary money in a similar way to M. Fillon. She has been summoned to be interviewed by an investigating magistrate. "I'm not going!" quoth she, and went she not. She will be summoned again at a future date. "I'm not going!" came the ready reply.
As in the UK, the left wing Socialist Party is in disarray. I ask you, are we living in left-wing kind of days?
Thus far this leaves the field clear for an outsider, Emmanuel Macron, who says he is neither of the left, not the right, nor of the centre, but he wants an eclectic programme of measures including the best ideas of left and of right. He wants to stop us paying Taxe d'Habitation, which is the only direct tax we qualify to pay, so he can't be all bad, can he?
With the general hoo-ha our fine and funky French friends have found a rich comedic vein to explore.
Amongst them a video of policemen catching people in flagrante delicto shoplifting or committing other infractions.
"Excuse me, Madame, you have stolen all those goods from this store."
"And I'll carry on and take them home!"
"Oh, OK, have a nice day."
"You are under arrest. Come with me to the Police Station."
"I'm not coming!"
"Oh, OK, have a nice day."
The one bright spot is that it could turn out that we end up with M. Juppé as president after all.
He has maintained through the whole sorry mess that:
1) the French chose Fillon in a plebiscite
2) Fillon is entitled to the presumption of innocence just like anyone else
3) therefore he, Juppé, would not even consider taking his place as candidate
He now says he would consider replacing Fillon as candidate if
1) Fillon withdraws from the election
2) the Republican party backs him (Juppé)
What a palaver, eh?