France gets first woman economy minister

Paris, June 20:

Christine Lagarde, a top lawyer and a former champion synchronised-swimmer, was appointed France’s first woman economy minister.

She was one of several women appointed by Nicolas Sarkozy in a rethink of his cabinet and junior ministerial roles. In an attempt to confound Socialists and disprove critics who say he is divisive, the new rightwing president invited more figures from the left to join his team. He appointed an outspoken feminist campaigner of north African descent to address the fall-out from the riots on suburban housing estates.

The cabinet reshuffle was forced upon Sarkozy after an embarrassing blow when his de facto deputy prime minister, Alain Juppe, was beaten by a Socialist in the parliamentary election. Despite winning an absolute majority in parliament, Sarkozy’s UMP party did not return as many MPs as expected and his honeymoon period of record popularity appears to be entering a new phase.

As Sarkozy prepares to launch his ‘economic revolution’, Lagarde will be one of the most important ministers in France, overseeing his £11 billion package of tax cuts, loosening the 35-hour week, negotiating with unions and convincing the nation that the poor will not be robbed to pay for the tax cuts of the rich. Lagarde is one of several members of the cabinet who are not elected politicians.