Goodness me, but aren't our European Mediterranean neighbours in a right old mess?
Greece trembles on the edge of violence, as well it might with 65 per cent youth unemployment. In an effort to distract from a potentially catastrophic funding scandal, Spain's prime minister is trying to pick a fight with the UK over Gibraltar. Italy's 88-year-old president is seeking to limit the damage that corrupt old reprobateSilvio Berlusconi can do to the state.
There's France, stuck with Francois Hollande, a hapless president whom almost everyone – including Angela Merkel – despises. And to twist the knife in the national wound, the brilliant Dominique Strauss-Kahn (aka DSK), who would have been in the Elysee Palace in place of Hollande had it not been for a New York chambermaid, is back in the public eye.
After the humiliations of 2011, which included resigning as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, the implosion of his political career and collapse of his marriage, DSK has been trying to get his life back on track. US prosecutors had dropped the criminal case against him, but the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, persisted with a civil lawsuit, which Strauss-Kahn settled in December 2012 for €1.1m.
Only a few days later, an unnamed secretary told a Belgian news website that on a first date with Strauss-Kahn, he took her to an orgy in a Parisian sex club. She refused to see him again for three years, but then agreed to have sex if he tried to find her an interesting job. He allegedly introduced her to the bosses of a global group sex network.
In February, he failed to halt the publication of Beauty and the Beast, an angry fictionalised account of their affair by an Argentinian barrister. She didn't mention his name in the book, but helpfully explained publicly that the protagonist – who is "half man, half pig", was indeed DSK. In March, he and his wife, Anne Sinclair, were divorced, but two months later, he appeared at the Cannes Film Festival with his new partner, Myriam L'Aouffir, 45 to his 64, a blonde, elegant television executive.
In June, he looked tanned and at ease when he appeared before a French senate committee to give evidence about tax fraud in the banking system. He delivered a couple of kicks to Hollande, including denouncing as a "vast illusion" a tax on financial transactions that the president is keen to foist on the EU. Feminists and moralists were angry that he seemed to be on his way to rehabilitation. Things were looking up. He was building a career as an economic consultant to big business, and, last month, was appointed to the boards of a Russian Bank and the Russian Direct Investment Fund and tipped to return to public life as an economic adviser to the Serbian government.
But towards the end of the month came the hammer blow, when French prosecutors announced he would be standing trial with 12 others charged with "aggravated pimping" at a Lille hotel following an indictment by two investigating magistrates. Their justification was leaked last week. He was accused of "making premises available for prostitution", and thereby pimping. He was the "linchpin" of a prostitution ring.
"These soirees were never organised without [DSK], and when they were, it was based on his visit to a city (Paris, Washington, etc) and when his schedule permitted. He controlled the proceedings of the soirees, which were organised based on his availability."
The judges poured scorn on DSK's claims the young women involved were libertines doing it for fun rather than prostitutes doing it for money, and were clearly revolted by the accounts they had heard of what went on. "DSK treated escort girls as if they were pieces of meat during orgies, condemned as carnage on a pile of mattresses."
What may be hardest for him to bear is that the bloated Gerard Depardieuwill be playing him in a movie scheduled to be made next year and will not be giving a sympathetic portrait. "He is very French: arrogant, smug. He's playable. I will do it because I don't like him," said the actor.
I don't like DSK either. He's all that Depardieu says, and is also priapic, brutal and deluded in his dealings with women. I don't believe for a moment that he could have thought that groups of attractive young women were proffering him and his acolytes sex for no reward, any more than I believe any sane person could think Nafissatou Diallo was overwhelmed with the desire to give him oral sex. But when DSK's lawyers speak of a witch-hunt, I'm inclined to agree. If the law says he's a pimp, the law is an ass. And troubled France, which needs all the talent it can draw on, is the loser.