Michel Rocard, French prime minister – obituary


Michel Rocard, who has died aged 85, turned Socialist prime minister of France in 1988 however discovered himself consistently undermined by the French president François Mitterrand till Might 1991 when he was unceremoniously kicked out of the Hôtel Matignon “like a home servant” and changed with Edith Cresson; in 2014 he resurfaced to inform Britain to depart the EU “earlier than you wreck every part”.

Rocard was mentioned to be one of many nicest and ablest males in French politics – and one of many few to emerge untainted by the corruption scandals that dogged his social gathering within the Nineteen Nineties. From the Nineteen Seventies to the Nineteen Nineties he was usually tipped as a possible contender for the presidency. It was by no means to be.

His fellow Socialist Mitterrand was mentioned to have despised Rocard’s shift from excessive Left (Rocard manned the barricades in 1968 and based the far-left Parti Socialiste Unifié) in the direction of the centre, however the actual causes for his dislike have been extra private.

Robert Schneider, creator of The Quiet Hatred, a examine of the connection between the 2 males, defined: “All the pieces about Rocard displeased Mitterrand … at the same time as a person … his obscure and quick method of talking, his lack of tradition, his ignorance of historical past.”

Rocard, for his half, was mentioned to treat his rival as cynical, manipulative, opportunist and economically naive. They have been, as one wag put it, Tonton and Tintin, the unimaginable couple. 

In 1974 Rocard had agreed to again Mitterrand with a view to get the Left into energy and twice, in 1981 and 1988, he deferred to Mitterrand’s presidential ambitions; on the second event Mitterrand needed to reward Rocard by appointing him prime minister towards his personal inclination.

Over the subsequent three years, as Mitterrand hobnobbed with world leaders, Rocard carried the can at dwelling, battling to get laws by means of the Nationwide Meeting (the place the Socialists relied on Communist assist) and attempting to quell mounting discontent within the nation at massive.

His process was made no simpler by Mitterrand’s fixed makes an attempt to undermine him – as when he invited a gaggle of disadvantaged children to the Elysée to debate their issues on the peak of a interval of rioting and unrest in suburban colleges.

Mitterrand’s ruthlessness annihilated Rocard’s presidential ambitions. A cartoon revealed after his sacking confirmed a gladiator, his foot on Rocard’s chest, a sword poised to strike, awaiting the signal from the emperor Mitterrand. There was no doubting what the emperor’s verdict could be.

Michel Louis Léon Rocard was born on August 23 1930 at Courbevoie within the Hauts-de-Seine area right into a Protestant household. His father was the nuclear physicist Yves Rocard.

He turned concerned in politics on the Paris Institute of Political Research the place he turned chairman of the French Socialist College students – who have been then allied to the SFIO (the French Part of the Employees’ Worldwide).

After learning on the École Nationale d’Administration, he went as a finance inspector to Algeria, the place he wrote a report cataloguing the appalling situations in refugee camps of the Algerian Battle of Independence. When the report was leaked to the press in 1959, Rocard virtually misplaced his job. 

The next 12 months he co-founded, with Edouard Depreux, the dissident Unified Socialist Social gathering (PSU) and in 1967 turned its chief. On the peak of the coed riots in Paris the next 12 months, Rocard referred to as a mass rally at which the coed chief Danny Cohn-Bendit publicly mocked Mitterrand, who had been trying to ingratiate himself with the scholars. Later Rocard described Mitterrand as “a political dinosaur”. The older man by no means forgot or forgave the insult.

In 1969 Rocard ran within the presidential election however obtained solely 3.6 per cent of the vote. Some months later, he was elected deputy of Yvelines division, defeating the previous prime minister Maurice Couve de Murville. He misplaced his parliamentary seat in 1973 and the next 12 months he bowed to the inevitable and joined Mitterrand’s Socialist Social gathering. Most PSU members adopted him.

Elected mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in 1977, Rocard retook his parliamentary seat the subsequent 12 months and set himself up as chief of the opposition to Mitterrand contained in the Socialist social gathering, now as a candidate of the social gathering’s Proper. After the surprising defeat of the Left on the 1978 meeting elections, he made a bid for the social gathering management however failed and Mitterrand went on to win the nomination for the presidency in 1981. Beneath Mitterrand’s first presidency, Rocard served as minister of territorial growth and planning and later as minister of agriculture.

From the Nineteen Seventies to the Nineteen Nineties, Rocard’s group contained in the Socialist Social gathering, influenced by the Swedish mannequin of social democracy, advocated a “deuxième gauche” programme which pitched an agenda of market reforms, decentralisation and fewer state management towards Mitterrand’s previous Socialist agenda of nationalisation.

As prime minister Rocard fought rearguard actions to get laws by means of. He survived 11 censure motions and on 27 events needed to resort to a clause within the structure by which the federal government may override the Meeting’s recalcitrance. His proudest achievement was the signing in 1988 of the accords between the warring factions within the French colony of New Caledonia.

Rocard was pushed out of workplace in time to keep away from the Socialists’ slide within the polls amid corruption scandals which noticed the social gathering’s share of the vote sink to 18 per cent within the spring regional elections of 1992. Fearing political oblivion, the social gathering positioned its destiny in Rocard’s arms and he emerged because the Socialists’ seemingly candidate within the 1995 presidential election.

However his hopes have been dashed as soon as once more when he led the social gathering to its worst ever defeat within the 1994 European Parliament elections. The defeat was partially as a result of success of the Left Radicals’ Motion led by the maverick Bernard Tapie, which was covertly supported by Mitterrand. Rocard’s Socialists achieved solely 14.5 per cent within the polls and every week later he was compelled out of the social gathering management. When the election outcomes have been introduced, inappropriate sounds of revelry may very well be heard coming from the Elysée Palace.

Rocard started a brand new chapter as a member of the European Parliament, wherein, at numerous instances, he chaired the Committees on Improvement and Cooperation, Employment and Social Affairs and Tradition, Youth, Schooling, the Media and Sport.

In June 2007, throughout a go to to India, Rocard was admitted to the Calcutta Medical Analysis Institute, the place medical doctors discovered he had a blood clot in his mind. After a serious operation he was discharged from hospital.

He remained lively in European Union politics, inflicting a stir in June 2014, when, in an article in Le Monde, he delivered his ideas on the British on the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Quoting Churchill’s phrases in regards to the “United States of Europe”, he condemned Britain’s coverage on Europe, accusing it of treating EU allies with a “contempt and double-dealing” that will finally “backfire on you”.

“Now you fake to wish to exit,” he wrote. “Nearly all of your persons are in little doubt about it. However you’ve gotten a banking curiosity in remaining to capitalise on the dysfunction that you’ve got helped to create. So go earlier than you wreck every part.”

Michel Rocard was married thrice. His first two marriages have been dissolved. He’s survived by his third spouse, Sylvie, and by three sons and a daughter from his first two marriages. 

Michel Rocard, born August 23 1930, died July 2 2016


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