Charm operation in Albion

Article published on April 16, 2008
Article published on April 16, 2008
This was supposed to be Sarkozy’s poker bluff; his state visit to the United Kingdom was supposed to be sumptuous to erase the numerous mistakes of the last months. The charm operation was a success. To a degree... The bling-bling president in Windsor Franco-British relations have always been characterised by mutual respect with due attention kept at maintaining distance safety.
The 1904 “entente cordiale” summed this situation up perfectly. One’s neighbour had to be respected and greeted as vulgar and unpleasant as he may be.

The bling-bling president tried to do away with this state of affair and enjoyed without reserve the royal banquet, dressed in a Prince Albert like costume whilst Carla acted as the new “Jackie O”. During his speech, he paid tribute to his “British brothers in arms” and gave praise to the economic success of the Kingdom. The couple, far from Bernadette’s taste mistakes and other traditional Gallic faux pas, duly respected protocol. The pompous ceremony at Windsor was flawless and the English press was charmed.

Gordon Brown was actually the one who was ridiculed, as he got lost in the castle as guests were waiting for him. True, British red tops have published Carla’s naked pictures as an appetiser, but the French president has still won his bet. He has seduced the public opinion in two days... In Britain!

Europe in the suitcases of Sarkozy the salesman

The president, therefore, had room to perform his travelling salesman’s duties. In preparation of the EU presidency, he had brought the Europe of defence in his suitcases. He walked on a tightrope, persuading Gordon Brown that even though France would soon join NATO, the project of strengthening the European defence was seen as a complement to the international organisation. Nobody really got that but the Prime Minister seemed fine with it.

In the background, Nicolas Sarkozy grabbed every occasion to emphasise that the United Kingdom should play fully its part in Europe. Despite this insistence, very few found anything to say.

“L’entente formidable”, vraiment ?

There are reasons for such a political coup de maitre. France and the United Kingdom are both in a delicate position.

Nicolas Sarkozy needed badly to regain momentum and appear as a respectable head of State. The monarchic visit was a bit of a poker game for the jet-set president plunging everyday more in the depth of bad public opinion. He played it rather well; he did not make a slip and enjoyed a (new) found grace. The British Prime Minister has even talked about “entente formidable”.

The Brits, for their part, were very morose as Gordon Brown put on a rather weak show for the last few months. Hailed as the new Mr Bean by the tabloid press, he is struggling to find the boost of the “new labour” years. There is also few to expect from an ageing Royal family and its juvenile heirs. The Sarko-Bruni couple has ultimately reminded the English of better years and given them what they cherish the most: an old fashion royal parade starring a celebrity couple. There are now two new good reasons to move to France, it embraced economic liberalism and got itself a royal family.

Julien de Cruz