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The move was so rapid his father binned his young son’s childhood possessions, including a cherished collection of toy cars. His biographer Raffy traces Hollande’s dislike of confrontation, his desire to compromise and his self-deflecting humour back to a childhood need to avoid his father’s anger and the brutal corporal punishment meted out at his strict school.
‘Contrary to what his detractors believe, the man is neither cunning nor cynical,’ wrote Raffy.
He started to mimic the mannerisms, the talk, even the walk of his hero Mitterrand.
Last year the eternal backroom boy was almost a joke, with just three per cent support in the polls.
With his pudgy features and portly frame, he was mocked by television satirists as ‘Flanby’ (a brand of caramel pudding) and Marshmallow Man.
‘He is simply in a posture of avoidance.’ He was, however, very close to his mother, Nicole, who stood as a Socialist candidate in Cannes in 2008.
She died the following year, and Hollande has told friends he will dedicate his victory to her if he wins. after winning a business school grant, driving from New York to San Francisco as Richard Nixon’s presidency crumbled amid the Watergate scandal.
‘I will stay among those accompanying,’ she said in an interview before the election. He was married with a family, but otherwise leading a fairly routine existence.
Hollande makes much of his roots in Rouen, the dull Normandy city that reflects his desired provincial image as the hard-working son of a doctor father and social worker mother.
They met at a student party and remained together for 30 years.