The start of the French summer holidays did not stop six million people from watching Nicolas Sarkozy protest his innocence over allegations of illegal party funding, in a live TV interview.
At one campsite people crowded round the communal television, as the President accused opponents of trying to derail pension reforms by seizing on claims that in the past he had received envelopes of cash.
People in the streets of Paris were asked about Sarkozy’s performance.
“He sounded sincere, he looked genuine,” said one woman.
This man disagreed: “He looked a bit uneasy, a bit withdrawn, because he knew the French people are waiting to catch him out.”
President Sarkozy said his government would not back down on plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 and to make people work longer for a full pension.
“He was a smooth talker from beginning to end,” said a sceptical woman at the campsite. “Work longer? First you have to find a job. And if ever you get one after who knows how many years, how old will you be when you retire?”
Sarkozy said his Labour Minister had been the victim of lies over his role in the complicated party funding affair and had been exonerated in an official report. Eric Woerth remains in charge of the bill to overhaul pensions but has given up his position as party treasurer.