France's glamourous Justice Minister, Rachida Dati, has announced her pregnancy. The Algerian-born 42-year-old, a leading figure in Nicolas Sarkozy's crusade to end the exclusion of minorities from government, made a plea for privacy and refused to name the father of her child.
"I have a complicated private life", she told reporters yesterday, adding that she will not discuss it with the press.
Thanks to the antics of Sarah Palin's offspring, Mme Dati will not enjoy the world's most public pregnancy. However, the fact that the divorcee will be France's first single mother minister has the newspapers (though not the public) agog.
She intends to remain in her job for as long as possible throughout her pregnancy, she told Pointmagazine this morning. In many other western countries, this wouldn't even be an issue. Such is the novelty of high-flying young women in French politics, though, that the newspaper feels moved to note that only three other ministers have held office while pregnant - among them Sarkozy's presidential opponent, Ségolène Royal, who had a child in 1992 while minister for the environment.
Rachida Dati has caused a stir since her appointment in 2007. Most prominent of several attractive female ministers who made up Sarkozy's "new image" for France, she has raised eyebrows in the staid world of French politics with her taste for Christian Dior dresses. Many in Sarkozy's own party frowned at her appointment, as the Justice Ministry was coveted by party time-servers, who were upset to be beaten to the plum job by a newcomer. Both UMP activists and France's change-averse legal establishment have conspired against her as she pursued her reforming brief.
A close friend of the President's former wife, some Elysée insiders predicted Dati would get the shove when Sarkozy broke ties with Cécilia's set after their divorce. Sarkozy's new wife, Carla Bruni, is said to have commented sarcastically on Dati's affection for the President by suggesting that she would have loved to have bedded Sarkozy. Dati's pregnancy is hardly going to keep Paris's gossip-mongers at bay!
However, the daughter of working-class immigrants has defied predictions and remained firmly in her job - and Sarkozy's favours.