Monday, 14 January 2008

La vedette de l'UMP

Blair has unquestionably worked his snake-oil, smoke-and-mirrors magic on this side of the Channel, his appearance at Sarko's UMP conference last week – surely not canvassing French support for your bid for the EU Presidency, Tone? – winning wow reviews from across the political spectrum in France (as well as reminding those on the other side of the Channel just why the Bottler is so clunkingly bad a public performer).

And it has to be said that it was exceptionally well judged: deft, delicate, self-deprecating and delivered with lashes of Tony-style charm.

Crucially, it was also in French, which I can tell you impresses the French no end. They are so resigned to the fact that their language has been permanently relegated to the third division of global tongues that any Anglo Saxon, let alone one with the obvious apparent stature of Blair, making even the feeblest efforts to talk French instantly wins them over.

Yet there is a laughably obvious truth here: that Blair's French is execrable. It is beyond awful, beyond atrocious. It is cringe-makingly, buttock-clenchingly bad.

Technically, Blair's set-piece public pronouncements in French are impeccable. Grammar, usage and vocabulary are all precisely crafted – and no less self-evidently the work of a native French speaker commissioned (and paid for?) by Blair.

But in every other sense, which is to say how you use the language to do more than buy a croissant or a newspaper, his French is self-evidently near non-existent. I seriously doubt Blair unscripted could conduct anything that approached even the simplest conversation.

The clod-hoppingly obvious clue is his accent, bad enough to make even the ghost of Edward Heath run for cover. Churchill himself might shudder. It lacks every French nuance.

This is French as if spoken by an Aztec. Or a Martian.

It's Arthur Daley stuff. And about as convincing.

Yet it is not only the French who love him for saying anything in their language at all. The British press are no less in awe. It's not hard to know why. Given that practically no one in Britain is capable of much more French than a gulped 'Merci', it has long been the case that anyone able to string together even half-a-dozen words in French is instantly hailed as fluent, a weakness 'fluent French-speaker' Tone has traded on shamelessly for years.

In short, yet another delicately delivered con trick. It's all wonderfully bogus. Put another way, it's yet another reason for the grimly mongolot Gordo to brood even more.

This is a link to Tony's latest offering, unfortunately not available on YouTube, hence this rather crude means to pointing it to those of you masochistic enough to want to see it.,,3680972,00-blair-plaisante-conseil-national-ump-.html

As a final thought, there is one senior figure in Britain who genuinely speaks French well, even if the accent is unmistakeably still there. It is the Queen.

Mind you, her German is even better.

(Of course, her husband's German is that of a native speaker. But let's not go there.)

UPDATE Thanks to Anonymous for pointing out that my original title – Le vedette de l'UMP – was wrong. It should be 'la vedette'. 'Tis the curse of Tony.


kafka said...

Quel con!

Anonymous said...

I think you will find that it is 'la vedette' even for males.


jane said...

don't be hard on Tony, at least he tries ( signed a resident in France and fluent French speaker)

Alan said...

Blair's French was sufficiently good for him to have a heated row in that language with Chirac.

By the way, it's Arthur Daley, not Dailey.

jane said...

it was - nobody else in Europe had the balls to do it and Tony has been a hero in eastern Europe ever since

Wyrdtimes said...

I take it he lost the heated row with Chirac? Bliar never brought anything good out of the EU that I could see - quite the opposite.