The Sketch: Sarkozy knows it's better to be feared than sneered at

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The Independent Online

They're a nuisance, these foreign heads of state. They arrange a press conference up the wrong end of the Holloway Road; they make you arrive two hours before the start. They do a stupid kickabout on the football pitch and don't let you down there to watch. And those who lifted the blinds to look down had security officers marching up with orders to desist on the instructions of Downing Street. "Move away from the blinds!"

The gathering was abuzz with the gossip that Gordon got lost in Windsor Castle. The Queen remarked on it. It is said he'd gone down the wrong corridor. That's the trouble with a moral compass; they're useless for getting you where you need to go. He needs to upgrade to a moral SatNav. "Make a U-turn. Now."

The press conference. It started rather well with a bold announcement of quarterly summits between British and French ministers, followed by biannual summits to discuss what had been agreed before and an annual meeting to turn it all around and agree the opposite.

Why? Remember these are the two most unpopular men in Europe. But they have a chance to be feared, and in politics that's always preferable to being laughed at. So this multi-summit plan seems to be to agree an Anglo-Franco line to stiff the Germans before EU meetings.

It's a worthwhile experiment but you can't beat France at this game. They are supple, oiled and elusive. The big clunking fist is worse than useless – it will be repeatedly pounding its owner's beefy face.

Questions from the floor. All this wooing us into mutual co-operation, will we feel as good about it in the morning?

Sarkozy spoke at length. Then for another length. Then – didn't he realise the rules? Didn't he realise who he was talking to?

I didn't put my earphones on. That was so people would think I had fluent French; especially if I laughed suddenly and wrote notes. The British Cabinet was playing the same trick (I simply don't believe Jacqui Smith has any French at all).

In the event, I could understand several sentences if I concentrated, but then a few phrases escaped me, and by the time I'd reconnected he'd moved on to something entirely unconnected to the question and I'd lost him. Hang on, that was Gordon.

But I got a fair translation of Sarko's answers to questions on the euro, the Common Agricultural Policy and "burden-sharing" in Afghanistan. At enormous length he said: "Bend over."