Twenty million French stayed home yesterday to watch a televised contest. In the Blue corner, Nicolas Sarkozy, 57, the current champion. Defeated once in a lesser skirmish, he came to the ring bad-temperedly thirsting for the blood of Francois Hollande in the Red corner, who bloodied his nose last time out. Not bad for a marshmallow.
Sarkozy hoped that his political boxing skills – he’s known to be a bit of a bruiser – would demolish his rival in the early stages. But, the wrestling skill of his opponent and the essential requirement of a cool head proved more than a match for the champ’s best shots.
It’s always worrying when the media use words like ‘vowing’ when discussing political promises. Nevertheless, Mr Sarkozy, it would appear, is ‘vowing to boost industrial competitiveness, hold referenda on contentious policies, crack down on tax exiles and make the unemployed retrain as a condition for receiving benefits’. No details are given as to how he hopes to achieve these elaborate goals, but, there you go. Politics is politics.
More recently, seeking to court the 6.4 million National Front voters, he has further vowed to cut immigration and threatened to pull out of Europe’s Schengen zone of passport-free travel unless the European Union’s external borders are strengthened. A transparently nutritionless sop to Cerberus, I think, not for a moment enough to satisfy the voracious appetites of the Far Right. His nemesis, the formidable le Pen woman, has still not placed her bets for the big event in a few days time, despite the legendary seduction techniques of Mr Big Nose.
Mr Hollande reminds me of John Major. Plodding, agricultural and inoffensive, he appeals to the ‘none of the above’ faction in France more than having anything constructive to offer as credible opposition policy. His slogans are bleating rather than thunderous. He seems less comfortable on the media whirligig than Sarkozy whose media wizardry is legendary, but, is Sarkozy, like melancholy Macbeth…
..a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing. — Macbeth (Act V, Scene V)
The clever money was probably right, a draw. The vox populi has yet to be heard, however and Sarkozy doesn’t have the persuasively unifying skills of Vercingetorix. Five to four on the grey gelding next week. And, no comments about the cartoon, please. Not before breakfast.