Political observers had predicted that Claude Allegre would be sacked as education minister in the French government reshuffle at the end of March. Few, however, had foreseen that his replacement would be Jack Lang. Lang was a close confidant of Francois Mitterrand, whose culture minister he was for ten years in the 1980s and 1990s.
It will be the second time he has been education minister - Lang combined education with his culture portfolio from 1992 to 1993. He did not, according to commentators, leave much of a mark, his main concern being to smooth feathers ruffled by his predecessor, Lionel Jospin.
Lang is a graduate of the Institute of Political Science and former senior lecturer in law at Nancy University and at the University of Paris 10, Nanterre.
Among his political posts is that of mayor of Blois, a small town in the Loire valley. During a state visit to France by the Queen in the early 1990s, Lang successfully engineered an inconvenient detour in her itinerary that took her there.
Lang's critics, who can be found on both the left and right, regard him as a flamboyant showman, no enemy to a television camera. But his years at the culture ministry were marked by a series of initiatives, including the creation of the midsummer festival, during which thousands of musical performances take place nationwide. He was also chairman of the national assembly's foreign affairs committee and a strong critic of the use of the death penalty in the United States. The techno parade through Paris was another of his initiatives.
Lang enjoys considerable popularity among the young, a factor that Jospin,
mindful of legislative and presidential elections to come in two years, is unlikely to have overlooked. AP