Nicolas Sarkozy has star appeal. But to judge from his political testimony, he lacks a coherent political philosophy and has few ideas about how to arrest France's declineby Charles Grant / March 22, 2007 / Leave a comment
Testimony by Nicolas Sarkozy (Harriman House Publishing, £16.99)
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Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for a “rupture” with France’s past makes him an exciting figure. In the last five years—during stints as chairman of the Gaullist UMP party, finance minister and interior minister—he has proved himself a hyperactive and effective politician. If anyone is capable of shaking up France’s sclerotic economic and bureaucratic systems, it is probably the Gaullist candidate for the presidency. His star appeal is undeniable. At a chaotically organised election rally in London in January, so many French exiles came to hear him that several thousand people (myself included) were left on the street outside. His message to those who did get in was simple: France must change in order to attract back the young and enterprising.
Sarkozy’s book is a series of disconnected anecdotes, musings and proposals. He recounts how he pushed through difficult reforms as a minister, how he plans others as president, how he countered the slanders and schemes of his enemies, and how his relations with both Jacques Chirac and Cécilia—Sarkozy’s briefly estranged wife—are really much rosier than people imagine. Sarkozy presents no political philosophy, merely stating that his interpretation of Gaullism, in contrast to that of Chirac, is that France needs unceasing reform.
? Such an unintellectual book has, predictably, earned scorn from the bien-pensant left bank elite. Despite 30 years as an activist on the right of French politics, Sarkozy remains an outsider—with a father from Hungary and a Jewish maternal grandfather from Thessaloniki. He never attended one of the grandes écoles. But not being from the establishment only enhances his appeal, and this book has sold more than 300,000 copies in France.
Sarkozy seems little interested in the wider world, mentioning other countries mainly as examples that France should learn from. In the 1970s, he points out, Britain was 25 per cent poorer than France, and now it is 10 per cent richer. But he offers no real analysis of why France’s economic performance has fallen behind that of its peers, or what structural reforms are needed to arrest the decline. He would like to relax the rules of the 35-hour week, and implores the French to work harder. To his credit, he says that neither globalisation nor…