François Fillon, 58, is an anglophile who relishes the quiet life in the Sarthe with his Welsh wife Penny and their five children. Despite a penchant for driving Ferraris on a racetrack, he is known as France’s quiet man: a Gaullist and cool-headed reformist, safe, serious, introverted and almost dull.
The contrast with the tempestuous Sarkozy has made Fillon popular with right-wing voters and, crucially, MPs in the ruling UMP party exasperated by the president’s hyperactive style. The quiet mastermind of Sarkozy’s election campaign in May 2007, Fillon has served as prime minister since.
At the outset, he was humiliated by public put-downs by Sarkozy, who with a small band of Elysée advisers, openly took over national affairs himself. Fillon took his revenge by making himself indispensable among the party faithful. He stands square with Sarkozy politically, and stresses the need to reform a "bankrupt" France.
But he recently dared to distance himself from some of the president’s most controversial ideas, for example criticizing the linking of immigration and crime. Ruthlessly ambitious, Fillon could decide to run as Paris mayor, or even for the presidency in 2017.