Here’s one more reason why I love the Guardian. I picked up the print faxed edition today and found this as the lead story, a reaction to the visit of Nicolas Sarkozy to the UK and his address to the houses of Parliament. You would never — never, never — see this leading The New York Times or any American news organization. But this is precisely what I want from a post-commodity news outlet: voice, viewpoint, artistry. Simon Hoggart writes (and I hope they won’t mind my quoting the whole damned thing):
He loves us. He adores us. He reveres us! Listening to Nicolas Sarkozy address Parliament yesterday was like being underneath a torrent of crÃ¨me Chantilly sprayed from a high-pressure hose.
He actually said “thank you” for the liberation! Previous French presidents have implied that events in Normandy were mere skirmishes while the French got on with the job of throwing off the German yoke.
But Mr Sarkozy could not thank us enough. Grateful? It was surprising that he didn’t grab the Speaker round his legs to thank him personally for everything his forebears had done. France would never forget – never! She would never forget the English blood, Scottish blood, Welsh blood, not forgetting the Irish blood. They would never forget the welcome given in London to General de Gaulle (something which seemed to slip the General’s own mind quite quickly). “France will never forget because it has no right to forget!”
(Compare and contrast with the General, who ordered all US troops out of France. One diplomat asked: “does that include the ones under the ground?”)
The setting for this gush of gratitude was the Royal Gallery in the Lords. The president is partial to a spot of bling, and this is bling on a mega scale. The gold, scarlet leather, stained glass and gilt statuary – it is a mad Victorian’s idea of what a medieval castle looked like, and it makes parts of Versailles resemble something knocked up by Mies van der Rohe.
And we had the vast battle pictures on either side of the room – Waterloo and Trafalgar. “We get them lit especially brightly,” said one attendant. Denis MacShane had come over from the Commons, bubbling with excitement. “Did you hear him on Today? He was completely over the top about Britain – he probably only talks to Carla like that!”
Ah, Carla. She entered, cool, calm and poised, as if nude pictures in the tabloids hadn’t greeted her arrival on our shores. (Why do I suspect Sarko doesn’t care?) She sat at the back of the stage and her audience seemed transfixed. Crusty old codgers who spend their lives steeped in policy documents smiled for the first time in years.
For her husband, the thanks for the war were mere throat clearing. He also loves our parliament. He loves the whole country. Over the years our nation had become “aux yeux de beaucoup d’hommes, un idÃ©al humain et un idÃ©al politique”. It wasn’t just him – the whole world thought we were brilliant!
The audience were entranced. Even the translator could be seen to chop the air and wave in excitement as if she were delivering the speech itself.
“My dear British friends,” he continued. He needed us. The Franco-German axis was all very well, but it was now the Anglo-French axis that mattered.
“I was so often inspired in my youthful days by the greatness of Britain,” he mused. And now he would never forget the hospitality he had been shown. “Vive le Royaume-Uni! Vive la France!”
Somehow we slithered our way through all that cream and gave him the ovation he so obviously craved.
Here is a snipped of Sarkozy’s thanks to Britain: