Curtain Up on Astra Chief's Past; GADFLY

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 27, 2005 | Go to article overview

Curtain Up on Astra Chief's Past; GADFLY


A COURT case involving Carole Bouquet, the French actress, and Louis Schweitzer, the non-exec chairman of AstraZeneca, could well be raising eyebrows at the company's agreeable HQ in Mayfair.

As well as doing his bit for the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical group, 62-year-old Schweitzer has been busy turning round Renault. The car giant was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy when he became boss in 1992, but this year roared home with record sales and profits, making Schweitzer 'proud and happy'.

It seems, though, he is neither proud nor happy over details now emerging about his activities in the Eighties when he was chief aide to French prime minister Laurent Fabius.

Socialist Fabius ordered a series of illegal phone-tapping operations aimed at drawing a veil of secrecy over aspects of the personal life of President Francois Mitterrand, the dubious architect of the Maastricht Treaty.

Unfortunately for Schweitzer, it was he who actually signed the phone-tap authorisations against highprofile French personalities such as Bouquet, the former Chanel model and now the wife of fellow thespian Gerard Depardieu.

Mitterrand, it was rumoured, was 'obsessed' with her.

Having admitted in a Paris court a few days back his involvement in the tapping, Schweitzer now expects a guilty verdict along with a fine of thousands of euros. Not to mention a sentence of several months in jail, probably to be suspended.

.. AS Education Secretary Ruth Kelly announced last week she was 'effectively raising the school leaving age to 18', Gadfly could not help but recall who first thought of the idea.

Step forward Will Hutton, chief executive of the employment thinktank the Work Foundation and, more than a decade ago, Kelly's boss at The Gaurdian (oops).

In the great man's column back in the Nineties, an extra two years' schooling was proposed as a partial remedy for our economic and social ills.

And his then apprentice would seem to have taken note.

For the record, other Hutton notions from that period included prohibition of independent schools, reintroduction of grammar schools and a compulsory spell studying in another European country for all British schoolchildren (parental consent was, apparently, not regarded as an issue). …

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