Carla la Magnifique? Susie Rushton says 'Non'

Sarkozy isn't the only one being made a fool of: the hysterical reaction to his trophy wife shames us all
Click to follow
The Independent Online

So, a supermodel looks good in expensive designer clothes – and looks pretty spectacular out of them, too.

Well, forgive me for raining on Carla B-S's state parade, but this is a shock revelation on a par with the news that British Airways aren't all that good at handling baggage. From the moment she stepped off the plane dressed as Jackie Kennedy circa 1962, to her departure 48 hours later, the new first lady of France found that this is a country where she could make good her own brag that she is "a tamer of men".

Her first conquests were those two smoothies Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh. To judge by his oily smiles, the octogenarian rake believed he hadn't lost his touch. Then our Prime Minister attempted a Continental-style kiss only to change his mind and instead try on the type of gruesomely enthusiastic pucker that young women learn to dread. The grim old men of the British Establishment may as well have bent over and rubbed the front of their legs, Vic Reeves-style. But rather than lampoon or ignore them, the liberal press also had its tongue lolling out. I can't be the only one who finds the unabashed slathering over her each and every long-lashed gaze, her perfect curtsey, her slender ankles, slightly embarrassing. When the Sarko-Bruni saga was playing out on the other side of the Channel, the affair was viewed with critical distance. The President was making a fool of himself.

He was rushing in to a marriage with a woman who had declared herself "bored with monogamy" and who was known for her taste in famous men, including Donald Trump and Mick Jagger. It was predicted that Sarko and his bride would behave like vulgarians in front of the Queen. But once the couple were on our soil it all changed. British public life is so devoid of glamour, or even decently cut clothing, that Bruni's moderately stylish appearance has been received with clammy-palmed gratefulness.

As ever for the British, this visit reflects much about our own ingrained attitudes to class and women. Can we imagine an equally attractive, equally spicy, but rather less aristocratic WAG being accorded the same degree of fawning for simply accompanying her husband on a trip abroad? Particularly when that idiotic husband is making a poor fist of his career and it clearly benefits him to have a pretty distraction by his side? No. Carla qualifies for a pawing by the quality press because she's posh totty.

There was more hypocrisy. Naked pictures of Bruni, photographed by a respected artist, were released by Christie's. That was OK, then. And wasn't Sarko a lucky guy? It is barely more than a week since soft-focus porn pictures of Heather Mills were also widely printed. That, however, was evidence she was a slut.

In private, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is probably a very nice woman. She has talent as a singer. But this week she has been celebrated simply for being a trophy wife, and her husband is a term coined by the series Sex and the City – a "modelizer". Carla's past career on the catwalk as a "beautiful woman" makes her a pre-approved entity and therefore a safe choice for a man who cares, possibly too much, about his image.

Then there's the fact that she looks exactly like Sarko's previous wife Cécilia, who cuckolded him. Dismiss these details as soap opera if you will – but this foolish and insecure man is the supreme leader of a nuclear power. Even as a fashion icon Carla doesn't thrill me. She wears pashminas and carries polite handbags. Fashion watchers should compare her to Kate Moss, not Camilla – this is a woman who has had access to the fashion world's most creative talents since the age of 19. Unlike Sarko's previous wife, who dared to wear Prada, an Italian label, Carla patriotically wears Christian Dior. And flat shoes, because she's taller than her husband – a meek compromise. With a foxy consort by his side, Sarkozy has used this visit to play the part of the grave statesman and diplomat, a role he would be otherwise ill-equipped to perform. Where does this leave female politicians who must juggle interest in their appearance with running a country? Must they bear the duties of looking sexy and charming princes, while also getting on with treaties and speeches? Or could they emulate Sarko? If she wins, perhaps Hillary could trade Bill in for George Clooney.

Except for the fact that only a minority of the titans of politics and media are naturally equipped to go weak at the knees over a trophy husband.

Comments