The thwarted generation of socialists taking a tilt at the French presidency

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For twenty years they have waited, often impatiently, thinking of when their time will come. For fifteen years they have hoped to take control of the Socialist Party (PS) whose inner workings they were already familiar with. For ten years they have thought about becoming lieutenants as a stepping stone to higher rank one day. For five years they have known the cruel charms of being in ministerial office. And now here they are, all four of them, fighting it out against each other as the main contenders in a socialist primary contest to choose a presidential candidate for 2017. A contest that feels like it could be the end of the party in every sense, even though none of them has ever given up on their dream to make it to the Elysée.The quartet in question are former prime minister Manuel Valls, former education ministers Benoît Hamon and Vincent Peillon, and former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg. This group of politicians from the same generation who are in their 50s – with the exception of 49-year-old Hamon – know each other very well. On October 16th, 2002 at the Sorbonne in Paris, three of them launched the Nouveau Parti Socialist, a movement within the Socialist Party which had just suffered the calamity of its presidential candidate Lionel Jospin failing to reach the second round of that year’s presidential election. The only one who did not take part in this attempt to breathe fresh life into the party was Manuel Valls. Though he had discussed joining this new modernising movement with the three others, he ultimately chose to stay loyal to former prime minister Jospin and the existing PS first secretary, one François Hollande.

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