UK & World News
Francois Hollande Faces Media Over Alleged Affair
Francois Hollande is to face the media for the first time since news of his alleged affair with a French actress became public.
The French president will hold an annual New Year's news conference with journalists in Paris to discuss the economy and plans to offer French businesses tax cuts aimed at reducing unemployment.
But he is likely to face a barrage of questions about the publication of tabloid photographs in a French gossip magazine said to show him conducting a secret liaison with 41-year-old actress Julie Gayet.
A similar press conference in 2007, by Mr Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy following his divorce, was instead subject to intense interest in his links with singer Carla Bruni, whom he later married.
Reporting from Paris, Sky's Jason Farrell said: "This all comes at a very bad time for Francois Hollande. He's been seen as the president unable to turn around the French economy, he's due to speak about that subject, but he's more likely to be pressed about his private life."
Mr Hollande's partner Valerie Trierweiler was taken to hospital in a state of shock over the claims but France's First Lady is reportedly prepared to forgive Mr Hollande.
Le Parisien reported on Monday that the journalist and mother-of-three had no intention of immediately ending her relationship with the president.
Despite the media attention, a survey of French voters revealed 80% consider the matter a private affair. The faltering French economy is considered by many to be a more important issue facing the country.
"This has been disastrous for the image of the institution of the presidency," said Jean-Fran?s Cope, head of the opposition UMP conservatives.
French journalist and political commentator Agn?Poirier told Sky News: "This is trivia, because it's gossip, it's not news, because it's not something we should pay any attention (to).
"A lot of people are interested in the story, obviously, but we know we 'shouldn't be'."
:: Watch Mr Hollande's press conference live on Sky News at 3.30pm on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.