- Monday, 07 May 2012
- By Ian Birrell
So the French have got their wish: they have evicted the brash, egotistical and hyperactive President Bling-Bling from the Elysee Palace after just one term, along with his disliked Italian supermodel spouse. Few will mourn the departure of a man who promised so much but delivered so little with his strutting cockiness and super-rich
Nicolas Sarkozy made the right moves politically on the road to the presidency. But then came so many wrong moves in office, starting on the night of his election triumph when he celebrated with rich supporters at one of Paris’s most expensive restaurants before jetting off to continue partying on the big yacht of a billionaire businessman.
This set the tone for his tenure. He gave himself a 140 per cent pay rise, taking his annual salary above £300,000, then used state funds for late payment fines on his utility bills and £660 a day on fresh flowers. He reduced taxes on the rich, which backfired when financial meltdown struck a year into his term.
He spent £240million kitting out a new presidential plane, complete with £1million soundproofed doors on a luxurious double bedroom and £60,000 bread ovens to ensure fresh-baked baguettes. Then he became embroiled in a series of financial scandals, including claims he took illegal donations from the elderly heiress to the L’Oreal fortune.
Together with his third wife, model turned pop star Carla Bruni, the couple became fixtures in the celebrity magazines to the distaste of conservative supporters. Their baby was the first born to a sitting president.
Even Mr Sarkozy’s elderly father – a Hungarian aristocrat who fled the Nazis – got in on the act, publishing a memoir in which he described himself as a sex addict, starting at the age of 11 when he seduced his nanny.
Disliked: Mr Sarkozy and his former supermodel wife Carla Bruni became regular fixtures in celebrity magazines
Then there were pictures of the president checking his Blackberry during an audience with the Pope, which infuriated Roman Catholics, or the notorious occasion he swore at someone who disagreed with him at an agricultural fair.
‘His behaviour is vulgar, I’m afraid,’ said former defence minister Alain Richard.
‘He has lost millions of older and conservative voters with his bad manners. They just do not think it is presidential behaviour.’
During the campaign Mr Sarkozy apologised for his actions. But there was derision when his wife, who earned nearly £5million a year at the height of her modelling career, insisted they were modest folk who just liked watching soap operas.
The campaign culminated with another controversial meal when Mr Sarkozy joined 50 guests at a fund-raising lunch of quails’ eggs and blue lobster in Paris’s most expensive hotel. Afterwards, he was caught on camera slipping off his £50,000 gold watch, a present from his wife.
He was always something of an outsider in France – not least because he drinks Diet Coke rather than fine wines, prefers sweets to smelly cheeses and likes fat Havana cigars.
Now he must retire to lick his wounds. His own house went to pay alimony on his two previous marriages, so the couple are expected to move to Carla’s mansion by the Bois de Boulogne (although there is also her huge summer house on the Riviera).
So farewell to Nicolas Sarkozy, who was often described as a would-be Napoleon but failed to live up to such grandiose claims. He set out to transform his nation but, dazed by celebrity and dazzled by money, ended up alienating his people so much that yesterday he met his inevitable Waterloo.