Last week I sent The Secret Life of France off to Yves Bonnet, the former French spymaster who features heavily in the book. I have been nervous of his reaction. Today he sent me a text saying:
I love your analysis of our President. Be assured that the phrase ‘libidinous dwarf’ is now being whispered in the corridors of power.
President Sarkozy likes to sue people for libel. He has taken legal action six times since he has been in office. Is it libelous to call someone a sex dwarf?
I imagine arguing with the judge:
Monsieur le juge, I meant it as a compliment!
(Which is actually true. Sex dwarves are highly sought after in my family of five – tallish – girls.)
Pingback: French ethnicity, a contradiction in terms? « The Secret Life of France
Rolled over, eh? Hmm…
Er, what about Tony Blair? He used to make people go weak at the knees.
I would say his extraordinary career was based almost wholly on charisma and good looks. He wooed the British public like crazy. He looked like a reliable lover. We rolled over and took it, well, without complaint, for year after year after year right the way into war.
Anthony Eden is probably the closest to a glamorous PM. He was also a tireless shagger, as were many PMs – Lloyd George, Lord Palmerston, Duke of Wellington, Disraeli.
It’s true. I’ve had a good look. There has not been one single sexy British Prime Minister since the first (Sir Robert Walpole) in 1721. Check out Wikipedia and you’ll see what I mean. Nothing but men with no chins, or four chins, or serious gurneys stretching back through History…But that is unkind and not really fair, because, let’s face it, sexiness has nothing to do with physical beauty. (Look at Boris Johnson). It’s simply about whether the person appears to be ‘up for it’ (as both Johnson, and indeed Sarkozy, clearly are).
I think it very interesting that sexual attractiveness plays such a role in French politics when it is almost entirely absent in British public life (where “politics is showbiz for ugly people”), though not in the US (JFK, Obama). Parties are generally less dominant and organised in France, personal charisma is a more important organising principle. In the UK, politicians with charisma have not thrived in parliament, but have found themselves niches in other forums – Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson as London mayors, Alex Salmond in the Scottish parliament. A figure like Bernard Tapie is difficult to imagine in the Commons or Cabinet; Heseltine is perhaps the closest we’ve come. I suspect sexual attractiveness in politicians is considered untrustworthy.