Cracks in French socialist party are getting wider and wider, after former French prime minister and presidential hopeful Laurent Fabius has come off the fence and set himself firmly against the EU constitution.
After his half-hearted dénouement last week, when he told Chirac that he would only support the constitution if its was re-negotiated, his change of heart drew jeers from the ruling UMP deputés. But Fabius is undaunted, also dismissing fears of chaos if the constitution is rejected. "Europe would continue to exist," he said airily.
As might be expected though, Fabius's motives are far from pure. Knowledgeable commentators believe that he is playing to the hard left of the socialist party - which believes the constitution is a sell-out to capitalism - in anticipation of a presidential bid in the 2007 elections.
Appealing to the left wing, however, is putting him at odds with party leader Francois Hollande, who supports the constitution. Predictably, the party spokesman is trying to downplay the split, saying: “Debate does not mean war.”
Neverthless, the UMP has gleefully leapt upon the divisions, its spokesman claiming that the issues on the constitution were being lost "behind personal agendas". M. Hauteur, none other than former Europe minister Dominique de Villepin, dismissed Fabius’s "personal choice" on the constitution, declaring that it was "not necessarily the best way to make policy today."
You have to give it to the Frogs. They do have much more refined lines of insult.