Coffee House

This small man thinks he’s St. Joan

2 December 2009

I sympathise with Alistair Darling and his defence of the City. When he’s not contending with Gordon Brown’s suicidal Tobin tax proposals, Darling has to confront Nicolas Sarkozy’s calculated anti-Anglo popular politics.

Yesterday, the Elysees’s Puss-in-Boots delivered a deliberately provocative and economically senseless attack on what he described as the “unconstrained Anglo-Saxon market model.” Sarkozy sees the appointment of Michel Barnier as EU financial regulation supremo as a “victory” for France; he expressed himself in those exact terms:

“Do you know what it means for me to see for the first time in 50 years a French European commissioner in charge of the internal market, including financial services, including the City [of London]?

"I want the world to see the victory of the European model, which has nothing to do with the excesses of financial capitalism."


Neither economic model actually exists beyond the confines of Sarkozy’s populist Gaullism, the differences between Paris, Frankfurt and London are in volumes and preferences. But, that does not make the danger to the City any less real, as Alistair Darling argues in this morning’s Times. His point is that diminishing London will diminish Europe:

‘In the forthcoming reform of hedge funds, private equity and derivatives, José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, and Mr Barnier will be mindful that Europe is not competing with itself, but striving for global excellence.

It is too simplistic to argue that financial centres in Europe are just competing among themselves. The reality is the real competition to Europe’s financial centres comes from outside our borders. And that London, whether others like it or not, is New York’s only rival as a truly global financial centre.’

EU finance ministers must heed Darling’s warning, and Sarkozy should spend more time copulating and less time playing politics with global recovery.

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  • 2trueblue

    Sarky has always wanted the city neutered, just jealousy.
    The city of London is responsible for 8%, give or take, of our GDP. Right now it is sick but not dead. The French would like it to be dead, a french doctor would kill it!
    Brown and Blair made their coice, and denied us ours. France is one of the biggest recipients of largesse in the EU,
    we are the 2nd biggest contributor….. Any incoming PM in the UK in 2010 has got some clout???? Lets hope it is not Brown or his lot as they have already given way on most things, and then Blair gave back the rebate. We should get difficult, as the French do, and kick up about the promised support for reform of the CAP. The trouble is Brown and his lot have no idea about delivery, all talk.

    Sounds like a load of c..p to me. Get some one on it, chaps.

  • Verity

    Peter from Maidstone – Brilliant first para. V funny!

  • Maggie

    There are 200,000 French men and women live in London.

  • Marcher Baron

    I think Sarko said l’Angleterre (England), not Britain. Let’s not forget that the Auld Alliance (Scotland and France) was always inimical to England. Perhaps it’s payback time?

  • Naomi Muse

    About 16 French banks trade in the City.

    Sarko thinks he is a pixie – you can tell – and as such anything he says will have mischief in it.

    A proverbial pot of salt is best taken with any Sarko remark.

    Peter from Maidstone 12.44 – Vince the Cable said something on the National Sovereignty issue on the Daily Politics yesterday when the ernest tory was espousing the virtue of the proposed sovereignty legislation on which the Tories are hanging their hats.

    VC said that it is not necessary as the Constitution says that it is sovereign and that the national sovereignty cannot be ceded to anything or anyone else.

    Further discussion ensued in which the proposed Tory sovereignty act was suggested to be a good thing anyway ‘because it would make it very clear, once and for all.’

    Vince Cable said that it could make things less clear as the Constitution already covers all eventualities…

    I’d go with VC on that, so there is a bit of clutching at tory straws going on.

  • Lucy Jones

    Anyone know where you can get hold of Sarkozy’s comment in the original French – as a linguist, I suspect it may have been mistranslated.
    I supect what he actually meant was “I want the world to watch how France completely f*cks over the City. No longer will we have to play second fiddle to these Anglo-Saxons in the world financial markets”.

  • General Zod

    Message to the ignorant:

    Britain still derives more of its GDP from manufacturing than France.

    Without the City, the rest of you would find life very much more expensive.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    But does Cameron have anything to say to Sarkozy? Other than ‘a referendum is pointless because we have already signed up to Lisbon’?

    If that is all he has to say then he is himself irrelevant and will show that he is unwilling and unable to defend our national interest.

    But he still has a chance if he will show himself a man. Time is running out for him tough.

    And Darling is a waste of space. He knows that he is lying when he says that he will not allow EU law to damage the city. He can do nothing about it, whatever is decided elsewhere. But will Cameron state clearly and loudly that this is the case?

  • Watt Tyler

    Keep telling yourself that Sarkozy has a little willy – reason it how you will.

    The truth is that Britain has finally been got rid of, and the obstacle for a tyranical European Superstate has been removed. Keep voting for the three main parties, and keep telling yourself that Sarkozy is only crowing because he is compensating. Yeah. Go on.

  • Frank P

    Bob Dixon

    You know what they say, Bob. “Little man – big prick; big man – all prick”.

  • Ian Wiseman

    If only Michael Flanders were still with us to update his lyrics. This small man is indeed “All Gall”.

  • Norman Dee

    Sarkozy is a giant ego, this needs feeding, he has singularly failed to reform France as he set out to do, being beaten by the unions which ever he turned, so he needs an easy target to feed the ego. Step up Gordon Brown and Alexander Darling, 2 easier targets he could not have found anywhere, even kids in the nursery hang on to their sweets harder than those two hang on to any vestage of British interest.

  • David Blackburn

    Thanks for all the comments, very interesting stuff. I disagree with all those who claim that Sarkozy has a point. Granted, France is out of recession and we’re not, but that has more to do with the fact that our government’s actions have compounded existing credit frailties within our banking system. Credit starvation now affects the whole economy. Read any Mark Bathgate piece for the details.

    There is no such thing as a Gallic model or an Anglo-Saxon model, the difference is in the volume of trading and particular preferences. The crisis was created not by free markets but by incompetent commercial banking arms, ironically the most regulated part of the system. French banks were guilty too: note Société Générale’s losses at the hands of a rogue trader.

    Sarkozy is not making an economic argument, but a political one. The danger is that the incompetent Eurocrats think he’s making a legitimate economic point.

  • THX1138

    Dorothy- The answer to your question is No

  • Publius

    “France has weathered the recession far better than Britain while GB”

    — Wrong. France weathered the recession in the same way that the Soviet Union appeared to weather the recessions that occasionally affected the free world. It was flatlining before, and it just continued to do the same. Rather like describing a corpse as being calm and unruffled. No change, because no life.

  • barancle bill

    Ignoring the usual anti-French tirades one has to wonder if the French dwarf might not be correct in saying our model of financial capitalism has failed?
    We were assured by our unelected leader that we were the best placed economy to enter and come out of a recession.
    Yet we are the only G20 country still in recession!
    So shoot the messenger, but ponder he maybe right after all.

  • AndyinBrum

    Does anyone want to point out that in the end St Joan was burnt at the stake.

  • Bob Dixon

    Little prick syndrom

  • JohnPage

    Why sympathise with Darling? He is a senior member of a government which handed us over to the EU.

  • the shade of dr kelly

    i thought european commissioners etc were supposed to swear to serve the EU above national interest so either sarkozy is wrong or barnier will be breaking eu rules?

    mind you when have the rules ever mattered to the french?

    well done gordon, sold out to the EU for what?? to score points against the tories?

  • Nicholas

    The malevolent dwarf’s hair dye comes out well in that photo. It seems that when Carla Bruni kissed this frog she did indeed get a prince with a small p.

  • Ken

    But all this anti-French ranting tends to ignore a reality:

    France has weathered the recession far better than Britain while GB, thanks in part, to unrelenting Brownian sabotage, is the only G20 member still deep in recession.

    Sarkozy makes a good point.

  • Maggie

    Its not the Anglo-Saxon model. British banking and the city used to be held up as examples of dependability, honesty and integrity. The men who encouraged Gordon to throw away our good reputation so that they could make dirty money through dodgy scams were not Anglo-Saxon. The fact that Gordon has made London the money-laundering capital of the world is nothing to do with the majority Anglo-Saxons who’ve been appalled and disgusted by it for years.

  • Sally Chatterjee

    John Adlington. The pony’s lame, that’s all.

    Like I say, the French economy is doing better but beware of international comparisons. It wasn’t long ago that the UK was vaunted as a model economy, now it’s the sick man of the G20. Go back and the likes of Japan, Germany or Sweden were cited as THE economic model… …until they went into a decade long recession or suffered a massive banking crisis etc.

    Ideally it’s best to have competing economic models, to let France and the UK compete. I’m worried too that Barnier will push a hard line but then again the lobbying power of global finance is enormous. Just look how Obama was brought under Wall Street’s spell.

    As I write, the biggest threat to the City of London isn’t coming from Europe but from the Treasury. The 50% tax rate is making some leave for Switzerland, the massive borrowing splurge and unclear path to fiscal stability have sunk the Pound by 30%, Sterling is a soft currency under Brown. Let’s worry about what we can control first, sort out our own house before we get scared of Michel Barnier and rise to Sarkozy’s bait.

  • John Levett

    I’m with Sarkozy on this. For several years before the banking crisis, the British media derided the French economy as a basket case. It’s extremely clear now that Britain is the basket case and will remain so as long as it sees its future in financial services.

    Far from Sarkozy’s vision being a danger to the City, I suspect that the City and its political adherents have been largely responsible for the transformation of Britain from honest and respected broker to disreputable snake-oil salesman.

    Once the climate change scam finally hits the buffers, we’ll truly be in the post-capitalist age and will need to adapt. The French model offers a good chance of sustainability.

  • Chris lancashire

    This further proves that Brown was completely outmanouvered by Sarkozy and Merkel in the recent round of appointments.

    And whilst Sarkozy pursues his anti-City agenda (presumably, he thinks, to the benefit of La Defense), New York, Tokyo, Toronto and Frankfurt will be rubbing their hands in glee and anticipation.

  • toco

    Just to think the hapless and increasingly erratic Brown traded Michel Barnier for the nondescript and irrelevant Cathy Ashton.It beggars belief-a schoolboy would be asking for his marbles back having realised his terrible mistake but then Brown doesn’t do the ‘I was wrong’ piece.

  • Vulture

    The little fella’s Gallic enthusiasm proves what many feel in their bones: Viz. that essentially the EU is a French racket, built to serve the needs and interests of France. What Louis XIV & Napoleon failed to achieve has finally been managed by the half-Hungarian glove puppet and his man Monsieur Barmy.

    The City is quite rightly spitting tacks. You say Sarko should spend more time copulating – but with this move he has f****d us all. We should lie back and think of France.

  • Philip Walker

    It is terribly Gaulling, isn’t it David? Still, here’s hoping the Frenchman who’s swanning off to Flanders in an attempt to wreck the British economy is stymied in his way.

  • RMH

    A weak Britain = a strong France, wasn’t that was Mitterand thought?

  • Prodicus

    Spend more time copulating.

    Elegant. Only in the Spectator.

  • Laban Tall

    Nonetheless France has more of a concept of its own national interest than the UK has. There’s not a cat in hell’s chance that a French equivalent of Cadbury’s would pass out of French control for example – even yogurt makers like Danone turn out to be ‘strategic’.

    It’s funny though, because Sarkozy came to power on a platform of making France a bit more Anglo-Saxon. One of his first moves was to change the Sunday trading laws a la Mrs Thatcher.

  • Dorothy Wilson

    Sally: And would that have anything to do with the fact that France,over the years, has contributed far less to the EU than the UK has?

  • John Adlington

    And Sally’s solution to the one trick pony problem is shoot the pony.

    Well done SAlly!

  • R King

    Surely there can be a case made against for this “takeover” of our economy by the French under the terms of the Lisbon treaty. We were categorically assured that the treaty was a clean up exercise of all the past legislation into one act along with a permanent head.
    What else is there to crawl out of the small print that we don’t yet know about.


  • jules

    “EU finance ministers must heed Darling’s warning.”

    They won’t.

    “Sarkozy should spend more time copulating and less time playing politics with global recovery”

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant – I hope this reaches France; it will drive Sarkozy crazy, especially with the reference to sex (or lack of it.)

    I think the only baton to wield here is the threat of an IN-OUT referendum; it’s the only means of persuasion we have left.

  • Publius

    “His point is that diminishing London will diminish Europe”

    I don’t think Sarkozy is much concerned about “diminishing Europe”. What matters to him is crushing Britain and elevating France.

  • Sally Chatterjee

    Sarkozy is right. The UK is beholden to the City. We are too reliant on finance for exports, tax revenues and growth. A one trick pony isn’t much use when it goes lame. No other comparable country in the world saw the payments system come within hours of meltdown and it’s only in the UK that so many banks ended up collapsing. France took decades to build up a debt mountain, Gordon Brown has done it in four years.

    This is not to celebrate France. It has mass unemployment, low pay and sink estate ghettos. Each country has its share of problems of course. But it’s bounced back from recession faster and a range of indicators suggest life is better across the channel, whether on healthcare and life expectancy, crime, or personal happiness.

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