It’s tough to pin Nicolas Sarkozy down. He had spent the last week in apparent populist mode, hence his proposal for a redistribution of the VAT windfall on fuel taxes, and working on a plan to use France’s EU presidency to drive a clampdown on immigration to the EU. Yet he has added to this a proposal to open the door to the iconic Polish Plumber and now he has set up what looks like a straight conflict with the unions over the 35 hours. The odd thing is that one week ago he seemed content to work around the edges of the 35 hour week: endorsing what seemed like a rebuke by his labour minister to a call from Patrick Devedjian (UMP leader) to get rid of it. But the actual draft legislation seems to keep the 35 hour week only in a nominal sense while allowing so much variation above it that it would be seriously eroded. Perhaps a gambit that he can split “the France that wakes up early” from those with enough income to have a meaningful labour-leisure tradeoff. Coupled with a calculation that he can wear out the opposition over the July and August vacances. But not much sign of chastened Gordon Brown style U-turns.