Sarah Sands: This comdie franaise leaves us Brits out in the cold

The French President may be a crazy old goat, but he is dazzling to watch
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The Independent Online

The drama of the American presidential election looks like a sideshow compared with the romantic comedy in France. I cannot read enough about Nicolas Sarkozy and his presidential consort, Carla the Maneater.

Discussing the couple over dinner, along with the rest of Europe, I complained that England was being left out in the cold. Another guest, the journalist Adrian Gill, replied laconically that I obviously hadn't heard that Ccilia Sarkozy had now taken up with Tony Blair, and that was why he had to earn so much on the lecture circuit. Ah, if only.

Those who supported Sarkozy before his election spoke of his Thatcherite view of economics and his pro-Americanism. Nobody predicted that he would also be a crazy old goat. The Carla Bruni affair, with all the yachts and jets and blessing of Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, is sensationally unsuitable.

Nick Clegg resurrected the old rocker Brian Eno to try to interest the young in politics. Did he not think of an affair with a supermodel? The Heat generation now has an intimate knowledge of the French working week and can name the President of Egypt. The Sun regularly features French foreign policy on its front pages. Respect.

According to a political journalist who followed Tony Blair in his last days, the then prime minister was so exhilarated by a conversation with Sarkozy that he refused to take a call from Cherie. (And in case there are any lawyers reading, this is not a sly reinforcement of A A Gill's heady dinner party allegation.)

It must have been instinct that compelled Tony Blair to choose Luxor for his holiday. He arrived panting but, alas, a day too late to join his hero and his Cleopatra.

Sarkozy, meanwhile, was reported to be heading for Sharm el-Sheikh, another favourite holiday spot of the former British prime minister.

To make Blair even more wistful, Sarko is in the company of Bernard Kouchner, who founded Mdecins sans Frontires and is the George Clooney of liberal interventionism, plus his wife, the glamorous television journalist Christine Ockrent.

Blair sees Sarkozy living the dream. The French President has made himself the chief ally of America. He accepts wildly extravagant holidays from billionaires such as Vincent Bollor without hesitation. Conrad Black would have blanched at the casual expense of it.

Sarkozy is able to mix pleasure and state business like flour and eggs. He can ditch a sour wife for a woman who says: "I would rather be called a predator than an old fleabag." And on top of all this, he is Catholic from birth.

So how does Sarkozy get away with it, while Blair was hounded from office?

The people on the left in France, hilariously, have become pursed-lipped reactionaries about the dignity of office, as well as loathing their president's Anglo-Saxon political and cultural tendencies. But in the south of France, where I am currently staying, a powerful man is expected to have a beautiful woman with him.

Bruni has also proved her French credentials by singing abominable and pretentious pop songs. Her appetites are more unusual. Bruni is perfectly capable of losing interest in Sarkozy in favour of another head of state. Possibly President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Part of the joy for us Sarkozy followers is the vertiginous height of his tightrope.

The obvious difference between Blair and Sarkozy is longevity. Anthony Seldon notes in his book, Blair Unbound, that the former prime minister began cautiously and threw it all to the wind only at the end, when it was too late.

Sarkozy chooses his Icarus phase at the beginning. It is dazzling to watch.

The landmark role Ewan may live to regret

Like most of Britain, I feel well disposed towards Ewan McGregor, so I did the equivalent of queuing in Oxford Street at dawn for the sales and got a ticket for 'Othello' at the Donmar Warehouse. The audience's mood was one of enlightened bloodlust. We had come to see McGregor die on his feet. He got through the evening intact but he made no sense. When he said: " I hate the Moor," he sounded as if he were querulously resisting a long walk. The problem is Iago's "motiveless malignity". Why does he hate Othello? Professional disappointment, sexual jealousy, racism? None of these explains the sublime wickedness of Iago.

When Simon Russell Beale played the part, one was in awe of his diabolical powers. McGregor's Iago, by contrast, could be propping up a bar in north London. He might just have got away with it, were it not for the talent of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello. All those RSC spear carriers who have envied screen fame will now feel vindicated. They will be pulling on their tights and tightening their buckles with a new vigour. They will sigh collectively: "You see, they can't do the work."

It is sporting of McGregor to return night after night. But I reckon doing a McGregor will become an agent's euphemism for artistic suicide.

Parakeets are multicultural too

This has been the week for walks. My family dutifully made an annual pilgrimage to Richmond Park, accompanied by the whole of west London. It took an hour to find somewhere to park and 20 minutes for the walk. The sales are calm and empty by comparison.

The only disturbing thing about Richmond Park is its colonisation by green parakeets. The urban legend is that the birds originally escaped from a container at Heathrow airport, which is why they gather around this end of town. Another myth has it that they started as a pair released by the late musician Jimi Hendrix. The more prosaic account has escaped parakeets nesting in this country since the 19th century.

In Richmond Park they appear now to be swamping the indigenous birds, who must find it galling to be outbred by these noisy, assertive immigrants settling in our old oak trees. You would hardly recognise the landscape.

What are the long-term consequences of this carnival of multiculturalism? In the middle of my shrill monologue about the parakeets I realised that I sounded like Andrew Green from Migration Watch and so I shut up. We passed the rest of the walk peaceably discussing Sarkozy and Bruni.

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