Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Spotlight
  2. Elections
1 March 2017

What is Penelopegate?

What is the fake jobs scandal that has François Fillon, the centre-right French presidential candidate, on the slide?

By Stephen Bush

François Fillon, for a long time considered the frontrunner in the French presidential race, has seen his strong position crumble to the point that he is now a weak third in most of the polls. The reason? Penelopegate or the “fake jobs” scandal.

It emerged that Fillon’s wife, Penelope Fillon, had been paid €800,000  over eight years to work as a parliamentary assistant for her husband, despite there being no evidence that she did any work and a series of interviews in which she talked about her life as a housewife, including a Telegraph interview in 2007 in which she told the interviewer “I have never actually been his assistant or anything like that”.

Although, as in the United Kingdom, it is not illegal for politicians to employ relatives, it is illegal to employ them unless they are working.

The scandal took on a farcical element when it emerged that Penelope Fillon had been given redundancy payments when her husband became a minister. (In France, ministers cannot continue to serve as MPs.) The payments were above average size for and over the recommend ceiling for such payments.

In addition, it has been revealed that two of Fillon’s sons have also been employed as parliamentary assistants and, similarly, there is no evidence that they did any work.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Fillon is currently under judicial investigation but despite that, has vowed to continue running for the French presidency.