Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Will Sarko and Gordo Make the French Connection?

I'm just watching Nicolas Sarkozy arrive in Britain to be greeted by the Prince of Wales. I smiled as he walked down the stairs of his aircraft, carefully making sure he walked one step behind Carla Bruni. By doing that he appeared taller than her as he descended the stairway.

Simon Heffer's column
is all about Sarkozy today, and it's the subject of this week's HEFFER CONFRONTED which will be posted here tomorrow. Heffer reckons Sarkozy has more riding on the visit than our own dear Prime Minister and they have more in common than people think.

...The two leaders do have something in common. A few months ago, Mr Brown was viewed as a competent Prime Minister who had, if not the affection of the nation, certainly its respect. But then things went wrong.

Losing his nerve - bottling out of calling an election he would have won - Mr Brown invited instead the contempt of his people. He now lurches between attempts at authoritarianism (note his now-abandoned proposal to whip his own MPs on a matter of conscience such as the embryo experimentation Bill) and playing the same old records over and over again.

Similarly, a few months ago Mr Sarkozy was viewed as a competent President who had, if not the affection of his nation, certainly its respect. But then things went wrong. Losing his nerve - bottling out of a big reform programme that had been the main reason for his being elected only 11 months ago - Mr Sarkozy invited instead the contempt of his people.

He compounded it in ways Mr Brown would never dream of doing, such as in a positively teenage approach to his quagmire-like private life and engaging in slanging matches with members of the public at set-piece events. He also, incidentally, made a serious enemy of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

And so it is that these two rather damaged men have a chance to prop each other up, during today's and tomorrow's state visit. A mutual appreciation society, however insincere certain aspects of it might be, would be in the best diplomatic traditions.

The Sun's Whip column today has a great quote from Angela Merkel. She emerged from a dinner with Sarkozy - the two are said not to get on - and commented: "He has everything I don't have. But he has too much of it."

Unlike Simon Heffer, I am not a fan of M. Sarkozy. In his eye he has the glint of a demagogue. As Angela Merkel hints, he loves himself just that little bit too much. While he appeared to have clear plans for France, he has allowed himself to be distracted from the main task of reforming France's stagnant and centralised economy. Although he made an impact on the world stage at the outset of his presidency, he has not kept up the momentum. And along the way his dilettantish behaviour has brought the presidency into disrepute. The French are not forgiving people if they feel their leaders are making fools of them. M. Sarkozy now needs to knuckle down to the task in hand and ditch the gimmicks.


Olly Onions said...

greetings. On the same topic:

Anonymous said...

My God, Iain, you are being puritanical today. At least M Sarkozy seems to be a character (like it or not), which is more than can be said for our grey PM - who is in danger of making John Major look colourful.

Anonymous said...

I loved the French commentator on Sky, he seemed to leave the Sky commentator speechless!
Best exchange went thus:

Sky: and HM is now showing the President some of the French pictures in her collection.

French C: and who knows perhaps after today they will be joined by one modern picture..

Sky was also left speechless when the French C said that the President was very shallow and the French hoped that he would gain depth.....

Anonymous said...

I love Sarko - get's divorced and humiliated, and what does he choose to do? Get hitched to a supermodel.


Anonymous said...

Is he staying at No.10 ? If so he can try that quaint piece of British technology: The Snot-Goblin TeasMade.

Scipio said...

Iain - you say the French are not forgiving people.....perhaps when their rugby team play badly, but with politicians?

They forgave the morally corupt Mitterand and re-elected him, and they forgave the financially corrupt Chirac and re-elected him too!

At the end of the day, most French people will give a huge gallic shrug, pour themselves another glass of vino, and chuckle that their president is clearly a studmuffin!

They will then re-elect him too!

Anonymous said...

Adrian I don't agree with you. The French place style high on their list of priorities and sniffily dismiss Sarkozy as "un peu naff".

They are also sophisticated about l'amour. He married "une mangeuse d'hommes". Go figure.