There are times I hear the news and realise the slip of water between Britain and France is less a channel than a cultural chasm. This week there were two events: both involved French president Nicholas Sarkozy who is turning into Sam Sam on a mission to save the world, and both seem to have been pulled out of a political drawer marked: Making It Up As You Go Along.
The first was the president's decision to revoke the extradition order against an Italian woman, a one-time leading member of the Red Brigades convicted of kidnapping and murder in Italy. Whatever the pros and cons of the woman's case - and these things are always more complicated than reported - the most astonishing thing was that Mr Sarkozy apparently made this unexplained decision after some heavy-duty lobbying by his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and her sister. Can you just imagine the headlines in the UK if Sarah Brown and family were to use such influence on her husband? Good Gordon, it would be apoplexy all round.
The second was a presidential edict that the next time football fans at a match boo or whistle during La Marseillaise, the game will be cancelled and the stadium emptied. This followed the dissing of the national anthem at the start of a France v Tunisia friendly in Paris; perhaps as some suggested, because French-born fans of North African descent object to its call to shed "impure blood"; perhaps, as other opined, because they do not feel French. It seems to me this dictat will have two sure results: 1) It will become an act of provocation - nay honour - for some fans to whistle during the Marseillaise; 2) Tens of thousands of hyped-up football supporters subsequently denied a match will invade the streets of Paris. In Britain such a ruling would be considered -rightly or wrongly - an infringement of freedom of expression.
Having been elected a "deputy" school governor (the results of the vote have not been announced but there was only one list of candidates) I promise not to let the (non-existent) power go to my head (too much). I solemnly swear to try to engage brain before opening mouth (as often as possible); I will not let the Frenchman influence me unduly in any decisions I am required to make (he has already said words to the effect of: you're on your own, love) and I will not shut down the entire school if a single three-year-old points at the president's official portrait and asks: "Who's that strange (small) man?" But please do not expect me on fund-raising duties the next time there is a France v Algeria match at the Stade de France. I shall be on the Eurostar out of here before the first whistle.
Quid pro quo
5 weeks ago