I have not seen so many policemen together since their march in support of their pay rise. The Embankment was over-run with severe-looking chaps in black and yellow, holding up the traffic and chattering into microphones. A very large Bentley without number plates drew up and a small man in high heels got out and strode down the gang-plank.
It was President Sarkozy, fitting in a boat trip in between playing football with Gordon Brown at the Emirates Stadium and addressing both houses of Parliament. He was accompanied by a group of people who, had I thought about it, must have included the fine figure of the real star of the show, Carla Bruni. So close, camera in hand, and I missed her. I don’t suppose I could have got her to pose as she had been seen in the Sun that morning, not outside in March anyway.
Sarkozy looked as if he had escaped from the set of Time Bandits or Snow White, but nevertheless had an aura of importance about him. Do world leaders gain that aura from the setting, or do they have to have it in order to get to their position of power? Clinton, Chirac, Blair, Berlusconi all have it, that capacity to draw the eye. Gordon Brown does not, despite his bulk. However long he holds power, however well-known he becomes, he will never be the one to catch the eye in a group. That is consistent with his long, painful route to the top, slogging away in second place whilst shinier men soar away. What draws the biggest crowds at the fair – the steam traction engine or the fireworks?
That is not an estimate of true value, incidentally – the traction engine may well be more useful, though not in this case. This particular one, the Gordon Brown Bottler, is hard to start, unreliable, has defective steering and, once going, is hard to stop. I have my doubts that Sarkozy will prove any more reliable, but he certainly has the crowd appeal which Brown lacks.
How about a political version of Celebrity Wife Swap? Sarah Brown might wean Sarkozy off the bling and get him to think a bit before he opens his mouth. Bruni might persuade Gordon Brown to dress properly, to smile as if he actually means it (I bet she could put a smile even on his face), and generally to invest himself with some qualities recognisable as human.