The French are a different race to us.

Fairly obvious statement that, but one made all the more obvious, apparently, by this week’s controversy surrounding the alleged relationship between the French President, Francois Hollande and actress Julie Gayet.

For while the British – and one suspects the rest of the world – lapped-up each delicious detail of the story of how the French head of state had reportedly sped from the delights of his live-in-lover, the formidable Valerie Trierweiler, on the back of a moped to an assignation in the flat of the 41-year-old, divorced mother of two M. Gayet (he is 60), the residents of France could give little more than a Gallic shrug about the affair.

Opinion polls, we were informed, revealed that 70 per cent of French people thought his private life was his own affair. Which is strange. For the magazine that disclosed the alleged relationship, Closer, sold out – twice – on the day of publication. Perhaps all of the copies were snapped up by foreigners.

Truth is the French are very much like us, they just don’t admit the fact to pollsters. I suspect that if such a story broke in this country, when asked most British people would state they believed the private lives of politicians were no matter for public gaze, while all the time enjoying each tasty detail the media exposed. Such is the hypocrisy of us all.

In truth, however, the Hollande-Trierweiller-Gayet affair does matter to the French politically. The question of who is to be the First Lady of the nation is important, especially as the role comes with a staff of five and heaps of public cash. Then there is the question of the President’s security.

And now it has emerged that before the issue of her relationship became public knowledge, Madam Gayet was in line for a prestigious public appointment onto a body deciding which artists receive state funding. Should the French people have known of her closeness to the President before she was given a public post? Of course they should.

This is not to say that politicians either across the Channel or here at home are never entitled to a private life. They are. And I do not hold totally with the theory considered in some quarters that if a politician is capable of cheating on their partner and family then why not the country. Too sweeping a statement that.

However, the line between what is purely private and what impinges on public life is always blurred.

The moral then for politicians in Paris or London, Washington or Berlin, is to act as you wish but to be honest with your public. That, or to not get caught.