Nicolas Sarkozy, regardless of his politics, looks like being a raver of a premier, notching up a divorce from one glamorous wife and a marriage to a supermodel in his first few months as president of France.

It’s as if he’d planned it all along — get into power, marry the lovely Carla Bruni and be assured of a place on the world stage. Dude!

Politicians are a dour lot at the best of times, but every now and then somebody comes along who becomes better known for his love life or his human foibles than for his politics. Sarkozy may well impress as a leader — he has not been slow to speak out on key world issues such as Tibet and to position himself as a European leader prepared to stick his neck out — but even if his term of office in political terms becomes as blah as that of the unsmiling Jacques Chirac, his predecessor at the Élysée, he’ll be forgiven if during that term he brings a bit of Taylor-Burtonesque glamour back to the world stage.

His politics might be a tad too right-wing for some of us, but who cares? He’s a breath of fresh air after decades of Chiracs, Mitterrands and their long-in-the-tooth ilk. We may dislike the French for their famous arrogance and self-important air, but we love them in equal measure for their romance and passion.

Strange how it’s the world’s conservative politicians who are turning on the charm at the moment, with the exception of the US presidential race. Look across the channel at Number 10 Downing Street and you can only groan at the comparison between the French charmer and the bumbling, insecure Gordon Brown as he stumbles from one embarrassment to another in what surely will turn out to be one relatively short term. Please, God.

In the wings waits the best hope the Tories have had in many years, the dashingly assertive David Cameron. Many who traditionally would support Labour are turning to the Conservative Party more for his charisma than for his party’s policies.

Does a world leader necessarily need to be scintillating company at the dinner table? Given the chance, would you invite Brown or Cameron, Obama or Bush? I can’t help thinking a touch of passion and wit must help. I mean, just look at Dubya.

If you think the glamour factor is unimportant in a world leader, just compare Bill Clinton with George Bush, Margaret Thatcher with John Major, or Pierre Trudeau with, erm … well, can you name any other Canadian prime minister? (Sure, some smart-arse is going to rattle off a slew of names, but you get my point, I’m sure.)

John F Kennedy was a charismatic man in his own right, but put the lovely Jacqueline Bouvier on his arm and we were all agog. Ditto the 1970s Canadian prime minister and Margaret Sinclair, whom Trudeau married when she was 22 and he 30 years older.

Jackie Kennedy managed to remain in the world spotlight for years after Kennedy’s assassination by marrying the shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, before age refined her vision of herself and she ultimately chose to live a more reclusive life.

Who would ever have expected Ronald Reagan, the faded Hollywood actor and governor of California, to turn out to be not only great fun to listen to, always ready with a yarn or anecdote that warmed the global heart, but also a world statesman garnering enormous respect?

Now leap forward four decades to whatever’s in store for us in November. I say “us” because whether we like it or not, the incumbent in the White House affects our lives. I don’t know about you, but the people I know with charisma, with a bit of oomph in their personality, a touch of attitude, a soupçon of wit, are always the ones with something more than average going on in their heads.

The first four numbing years of the Dubya administration seemed to last an entire decade. I almost slit my wrists when he earned himself a second term. Now John McCain is shuffling around preparing for what he believes will be his first term in office. I would not have the man round to dinner. Would you? I like to have interesting people at my dinner table. The man is so lacking in charisma that even Dubya starts to look like a firecracker.

Now look at the competition. Hillary Clinton may be irritatingly smug but at least she is not dull. Nobody who is married to Bill could be, although her personality lags way behind his.

But Barack Obama has an arresting charisma. Even without a Jacqueline Bouvier at his side, he has enough personality of his own to make us all sit up and take notice. Which is not to say his lovely wife may not charm us all if and when we get to know her through the world media, but for now she’s pretty much an unknown quantity to many of us.

Give me Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy rather than McCain, Brown and Chirac. Give me a world governed by people of character and charm — Thatchers, Kennedys, Obamas, Clintons, Meirs, Mandelas, Churchills, Gorbachevs, De Klerks, Rooseveldts, Smutses — rather than one in which we trudge from day to dreary day supposedly “led” by people you wouldn’t talk to at a bus stop.

I live in hope that in December we will all wake up to a world in which the president of the most influential nation on Earth is led by a president whose demeanour and utterances are worth getting out of bed for. Of those in contention for the US presidency, only one candidate assuredly fits the bill. And Hillary Clinton or John McCain it ain’t.


Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman is a journalist, budding playwright and sometime chef. He's written two plays, An Influence of Ghosts and Blue Train Coming, and back in the day wrote loads of songs. He paints a bit in watercolours...

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