Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The new Ségolène: where was she when we needed her?

Gordon Brown needs to study the phenomenon of the new Ségolène Royal: where he has trouble ever saying he’s sorry for anything, she has turned the apology into a powerful offensive weapon.

She must have got herself some new advisers. I’ve never seen her this effective before. You may remember ‘Ségo’, as those of us who liked her called her, and indeed continued to call her when we couldn’t stand her any more. She ran for president of France against the ghastly Nicolas Sarkozy, 'Sarko' to his many detractors and few friends. He, thanks at least in part to her miserably incompetent campaign, now holds the post.

At an early stage a journalist asked her for her view of the vexed question of Turkish entry to the EU. To demonstrate her qualifications to lead from the front, she replied that she would consult the French people and then make up her mind.

I thought that this might be a low point from which she could recover in the following months. Sadly, it was far from the low point and things actually got a great deal worse before she was soundly beaten by Sarko.

Today, however, she seems transformed. Sarko keeps coming up with ill-informed and ill-mannered comments about others, including other heads of state. Ségo has taken to apologising for them, first to the president of Senegal, recently to the Prime Minister of Spain. She tells them that Sarko does not speak for France, a brilliant way of positioning herself as someone who does. It also draws a clear demarcation between herself and the demagogue opposite.

Her apologies have also made the governing party apoplectic with rage. They denounce her, they question her sanity. If it hurts them that badly, it must be achieving its aims.

Where did she learn to be so effective? Who has she taken on to teach her?

And why, oh why, didn’t she do it back in 2007 when it might have prevented our having to put up with Sarko for five years?

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