And you thought I was joking…

Ha. You thought this was an exercise in strategic trolling. Think again; the French Navy’s helicopter carrier Jeanne d’Arc pulled into New York on the 28th for a port call, and to deliver a consignment of books for schools in New Orleans. (French ones, naturally.) Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani’s primary campaign took a misstep when he badly misjudged his core constituency

«Un sondage montre que 67 % des Américains pensent que le pays est sur la mauvaise voie…», annonce Rudolph Giuliani à une centaine de supporteurs réunis dans un petit restaurant de Hampton, dans le New Hampshire. Costume noir rayé, cravate rouge, l’ex-maire de New York en campagne pour la Maison Blanche balaie d’un regard contrarié la foule trop éparse. «Connaissez-vous un autre pays qui soit plus mal en point que ça ?» «La France !» lance un militant arborant un macaron «Rudy for president», aussitôt approuvé par l’assistance. «Pas du tout !» bondit Giuliani. «Nicolas Sarkozy a écrit un livre excellent sur son programme, qu’il met en œuvre en ce moment», rétorque-t-il à son auditoire un peu confondu.

I’m not sure which is funnier – Giuliani trying to push France as an example to his war-crazed freedom fries base (this is the guy who hired Dan Senor and Norman Podhoretz, mark) or the notion that Sarko is still new, revolutionary or exciting.

I spent enough time on this blog trying to dispel the myth of “Sarkozy, France’s Margaret Thatcher” that iit’s wearying to repeat any of it; but essentially all the media beyond France, and much of it within France, got him completely, embarrassingly wrong. Rather than offering a dramatic ideological break, Sarko is much better understood as a Blair or Berlusconi figure; heavily reliant on a dominant media owner (his own media for Berlusconi; Murdoch’s for Blair; Lagardere and the wave of late-Chirac appointments at France Televisions for Sarkozy), wrapping a fundamentally conservative message in the cult of newness and business style. Security, property prices, and TV.

It’s like Chirac with more caffeine. This is unlikely to change much; the long-awaited ruck with the Left over special pension provisions has resulted in the issue being punted to tripartite negotiations with business and the unions, and the flagship economic policy (introducing mortgage tax relief) was derailed by the courts. Although it’s still theoretically on the agenda, nobody is now expecting a property boom any time soon.

What Sarko is probably worrying about is more that his fiscal boost came before the credit crisis; €15bn of tax cuts that fell precisely the wrong side of the cycle.

The UK’s Toxic Discourse; Miliband and Euro-Defence

Richard Corbett MEP points to a bizarre feature of British debate on Europe; there is absolutely no certainty as to how anything will be reported or received. David Miliband recently gave a speech at the College of Europe in Bruges in which he stated that it was undesirable that the EU states’ deployable armed forces amounted to less than 100,000 men out of something like two million under arms in total.

(It’s a pity he still won’t answer the damn questions about Iraqi employees.)

The Daily Express, reliably insane under the ownership of porn king Richard Desmond, claimed he had a “project for the Islamification of Europe”. This is because he thinks the single market should eventually include North Africa; apparently the Express has forgotten that it demanded the UK should impose restrictions on the movement of labour, like France and Germany did, when Poland joined the EU.

The Daily Mail thought he was planning a “new EU empire”. The Independent and sometimes the Guardian thought he was diminishing the EU; the Guardian also separately praised the speech, thus scooping the pot for consistency.

What is this accusation of “diminishing” the EU (which Nosemonkey also bought into) based on? Well, it’s not the EU’s defence policy he was criticising, more the fact there isn’t more of one. And the most quoted sentence was that “Europe will be less important in 2050 than it was in 1950” – everyone seems to have read this as Euro-bashing.

However, how could it possibly not be true, given that by then India, China, and probably Brazil will be major world powers? Unless you’re expecting the United States to collapse, the EU will be one among many powers; rather than one of the three world industrial bases Harry Truman spoke of in the 1940s.

Meanwhile, there is real progress being made; when HMS Illustrious does the Royal Navy’s next eastern deployment she may have Italian or Spanish Harrier AV8B aircraft aboard. Granted this tells us more about the ragged state of the British armed forces, but it’s a start; although what the Spanish government will make of the following proposal is anyone’s guess:

The Royal Navy continues to study the idea of making Gibraltar the home of one of the new aircraft carriers.

Plans for a carrier base have been in development for several years. The idea would make Gibraltar home to one of Britain’s two new aircraft carriers along with the support fleet that accompanies it.