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Monday, May 07, 2007

Blair On Sarkozy: Two Great Nations; Two Great Speeches

Following the excellent French Presidential election result, The Great Leader was quick to telephone Nicolas Sarkozy - "someone I truly admire and a man I regard as a friend" - to express his relief that the Labour Government would not have to deal with the madwoman Ségolène Royal (a political prospect wittily referred to in Whitehall circles as the Blair-Witch Project).

In a helpful gesture, my fellow spin doctors at Number 10 have kindly provided the English language video above and an accompanying script as follows:

Hello. The French election obviously attracted a lot of interest in Britain. And of course France is a close neighbour and an important partner for us. Last night I spoke to Nicolas Sarkozy, the new President, to congratulate him. Nicolas Sarkozy is somebody I know well. I like him very much. I respect him. He's a strong leader. And I know he'll want to forge a good and close partnership between Britain and France - for the good of our two countries, for Europe and for the wider world. Likewise, he is somebody who knows Britain well and takes a close interest in our policies, as we saw when he visited London during his campaign.

Britain and France are countries of around same size in population, with in many ways, many similar strains of history. Both our countries also face similar challenges today: globalisation, the need to build strong competitive economies so we can compete with China and India, and also, crucially, how we reform our public services and welfare state to make them in tune with the modern world in which we live. Today, for countries like ours, it's also through alliances with others that we exert influence - between Britain and France, in Europe and of course with the USA.

Like lots of British people, I love France, I've spent a lot of time there, I've even tried to learn the language, and of course I've worked with the French President and French governments over the last ten years. And one thing I've learnt from this, is that this relationship between Britain and France is an absolutely crucial one.

Of course we don't always agree, as you know, but when we do, we can be a real force for good in Europe and across the world. And I think that with Nicolas Sarkozy as President, there's a fantastic opportunity for Britain and France to work together in the years ahead. In fact, there is a whole new generation of leaders in Europe, and the one issue that I know will always remain the same is that if we work constructively together with other European countries, and play our full part in Europe, keep these relationships strong, we do an immense amount of good for our own country as well.

So today I just wanted to congratulate and welcome Nicolas Sarkozy, and to underline how optimistic I am that we in Britain will work closely with him in the years to come. Thank you.

And this was the video message as broadcast nationwide on French television last night:

Now I was only educated at a minor public school and can hardly call myself an expert linguist. But even I can spot some discrepancies here. So I've scratched my balls and dug up my best school French in order to give you this hopefully more accurate translation of the speech that The Great Leader actually made to the French people, rather than the one he made to the vegetables journalists and public back home:

Hello to you all. I thought I'd take a gamble and address this message to you in French – but perhaps that wasn't such a great idea! Please be lenient with me if I make a typical British pig's arse of make a mess of your language.

First of all I want to congratulate the French people on the election, which captured the imagination of the world and impressed us greatly, both in terms of the quality of debate and the impressive voter turnout. I wish the same could be said of elections in this country. Sunday was a tremendous day for showcasing French democracy.
As soon as the results were confirmed I made a special point of phoning Nicolas Sarkozy to congratulate him on his victory. Nicolas is somebody with whom I had the occasion to work many times, someone I truly admire and a man I regard as a friend. When I spoke to him yesterday evening to congratulate him in person, I told him how joyful I was Great Britain was at the prospect of co-operating with him. Of course, an immense task awaits your new President, but I know that he has the energy and the political vision necessary to successfully face the challenges ahead.

I have always been an enthusiastic admirer of France and the French people. Over the years I have spent many very happy times in your country. I lived in Paris for a while after completing my higher education, and as Prime Minister I have co-operated very closely with France during the past ten years. Today, I am convinced more than ever of the importance of cementing political co-operation between Great Britain and France, both in Europe and on a global platform.

Britain and France are two great and ancient nations of comparable size. Today, our two countries are confronted with the same issues: globalisation, economic reform, the developing economies of China and India, global demographic upheavals and the need to reform our social security systems in order to preserve our way of life. Historically, each of our two great nations played an important individual role in the world. But today it is only through effective alliance that we can continue to exert a strong influence. That alliance between us takes the form of European partnership, joint NATO membership and collective partnership with the United States.

Admittedly, we have sometimes experienced differences of opinion. But when we agree and demonstrate the united front of two countries with an equal and balanced partnership, we can be a real force for progress in the world. United together we can help take Europe forward - as we have already done, for example, in the field of defence. We have also to learn lessons from each other. Change is never easy, as I know, but one cannot avoid it. We must remain faithful to our values but re-examine the way in which put we those values into practice. I know that this is something that your new President fully understands.

To President Sarkozy, as to all of the French people, I offer my very best wishes for a successful future. Thank you for having listened to me… and goodbye!

What a splendid job my colleagues have done. How well the British version brushes over the existing relationship between the two men and focuses on hopes for building a strong relationship in the future. And how well the French version focuses on the existing relationship, the common reform programme and the progress already made. Like the difference between a job application and a love letter. Aaahhh! To misquote Mark Twain, reports of the death of PR spin have been greatly exaggerated.

Actually, on re-reading, it could almost be the speech of a man seriously considering leasing out his newly-refurbished Westminster house and spending much more time across La Manche.

1 comment:

George Dubya Bush said...

I last visited France in 1789 to celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution. I didn't like the frogs legs much, though. Actually, I didn't much like the rest of them, either.