Coffee House

L’entente nucléaire

17 February 2012

There’s no wound that a press conference won’t heal, or at least that’s the impression that David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy created earlier. The pair played down the tensions and grudging
handshakes of the past few months to talk up Britain and France’s ‘incredibly strong relationship based on shared interests’. And there was more than just talk too: they announced a
£500 million deal between French and British companies for nuclear power plants. And they hailed progress towards the creation of a
joint ‘command and control centre’ for military operations.

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Perhaps this mutual bonhomie explains why Downing Street isn’t taking the opportunity to meet with the man who may soon unseat Sarkozy — the Socialist presidential candidate François
Hollande — when he visits London next week. But there seems to be a firmer reason too. According to
a useful analysis by Sam Coates (£) in today’s Times, Cameron actually believes Sarkozy might overcome the odds
and triumph in his country’s elections:

‘Within the past fortnight Mr Cameron has been telling friends he can easily foresee Mr Sarkozy’s return to the Elysée. The Whitehall machine changed gear

In which case, the PM might be disconcerted by Christopher Caldwell’s cover piece for The Spectator this week. I’ll leave CoffeeHousers with a passage from that article, which
illustrates some of the main problems that Sarkozy faces and that may yet undermine some of Cameron’s best-laid plans:

‘…there are signs that voters have closed their ears to him. If you ask almost anyone in France why they plan to vote against Sarko, your interlocutor will invariably refer to
Fouquet’s, the exclusive watering hole on the Champs-Elysées. This is surprising, since it refers to an episode not just from the first months or years of Sarkozy’s mandate but
the first minutes. Sarkozy went there at the invitation of the owner, Dominique Desseigne, chairman of the Barrière group of casinos, to celebrate his 2007 election victory with
France’s elites. He left tens of thousands of his less well-heeled supporters milling about in the Place de la Concorde, and earned himself the nickname le président des riches. So
the way people have gone off him is personal, rather than ideological. You understand the difference: Barack Obama angered Catholics by trying to force their hospitals to offer birth control;
Sarkozy angered Catholics by checking his email during an audience with the Pope.

One top UMP aide, someone I have always liked for his frankness, told me over coffee on Tuesday that if Sarko had done more in the past five years, perhaps people would have found something
to talk about besides Fouquet’s. Most French people give him credit for raising the age of retirement, and thus allowing the country to save money on pensions. But beyond that, his legacy
is one of small reforms. Military bases closing, university rules, minimum sentencing for certain crimes — worthy initiatives all, but hardly the ‘rupture’ promised when he
came to power in 2007.

Ivan Rioufol, a Figaro columnist who has just published a book called The Urgency of Being Reactionary, says people feel let down by two things in particular. First, that Sarkozy got
bullied out of a discussion of “national identity” early in his term by opponents accusing him of racism. Second, that after a 2005 referendum in which 55 per cent of French
rejected the proposed constitution, saying no to further European integration, Sarkozy allowed key parts of the constitution to be passed by treaty, over their heads.’

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Show comments
  • Axstane


    If you wish to use special words in insulting me please spell them correctly – you numbskull.

    Have you any idea how much cash £500,000,000 really is? It is an awful lot to spend on just talking about nuclear power stations.

  • Heartless Curmudgeon

    I see the ruse!

    Loath to be proved wrong about Windmills, grafted by the hip to the EUSSR and its Wind Power scam, the incomparably incompetent H2B is working towards Nuclear Powered Wind Farms!

    Next will be Nuclear Powered Wave Machines?

  • Douglas Carter

    Out-of-his-depth infant Dave cements his credentials as the quintessential latter-day Heath.

    Spectator – DON’T recommend we vote for this inadequate trainee spin-doctor in 2015. He is no more qualified for national leadership then Clegg or Miliband. There’s a dead pigeon in Stourbridge with more credibility, leadership and intelligence than the major party leaders we’re currently presented with.

  • daniel maris

    What a Dark Day for Britain. Does anyone seriously trust the French nuclear state to warn us of potential faults in their operating systems?

    Cameron is signing up to be taxed by the French state – so that UK citizens pay for the French nuclear state through their energy bills.

    Let’s stop the madness now and move to a green energy policy on the German model without further delay.

  • Boudicca

    Cameron, having dismantled the UK’s armed forces, is signing us up to the precursor of the EUs’s Defence Capability Force.

    He is determined to keep the UK in the EU whether we, the people, like it or not. Ensuring that we have no independent defence is one way of advancing that agenda.

    Vote UKIP. Cameron is an EU puppet.

  • Val Duncan

    More than meets the eye, maybe?
    Get us tangled hand and foot with France and any referendum will be impossible… we can’t leave the EU because France rules our navy…. France rules our nuclear industry… and as like as not this new set-up means we will have even more of our neighbours nuclear waste to dispose of. We already have most of it dumped on us. Well France wouldn’t want it buried under their feet, would they?

  • Frank P

    Tom Tom

    “Cameron should become Sarkozy’s butler.”

    Indeed! He’s ringer for Dennis Price playing Jeeves, but not nearly as humorous – and definitely less butch.

  • Ostrich (occasionally)

    Axstane 17th, 3:16pm

    Around one, probably without the fuel rods.

  • TrevorsDen

    Its obvious that the 500 mill is not to build the plants.

    Vive le numskulls.

  • TomTom

    Britain simply cannot survive without France apparently. Since 1904 it has been France’s dogged ally ready like a lapdog for anything France proposed – two world wars, Suez, Concorde, CAP, CFP, acquisition of Racal by Thomson-CSF – the British simply have neither pride nor stamina.

    Cameron should become Sarkozy’s butler

  • Axstane

    Not sure how many nuclear plants one gets for £500-million.

  • In2minds

    So that’s the end of the windfarms then?

  • Publius

    “Within the past fortnight Mr Cameron has been telling friends he can easily foresee Mr Sarkozy’s return to the Elysée.”

    Well who needs the Delphic oracle when we can discover what Cameron has been “telling friends”?

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