One of my personal highlights from last year’s conference was an outstanding dinner speech by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, at a Barclays event. This year, I was therefore especially delighted to again accept Barclays’ invitation, as the speaker was no one less than Nicolas Sarkozy. Imagine a room of about 60 people, high up on a mountain, no entry for any journalists and a former President at his best. He presented himself as a passionate supporter of the European Union, he convincingly described the importance of the Euro–far beyond of just being another currency–and put it into the historic context. He did not circumvent any of the excellent questions being thrown at him. He used his full body for bringing his points across, he was thoughtful, highly entertaining with a quick sense of humour and superb timing. It was great to watch the reactions of his close ally, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, while he was speaking.
Mr Sarkozy comes across as a man who is full of energy, a man who can afford to diminish the importance of diplomacy and political correctness, a man who came unshaved to talk to a group of pretty senior people. Not everybody will have agreed with all of his views, but he deserved the highest respect for his clarity and openness. The disconnect and dissatisfaction from the public towards their politicians would certainly improve significantly if we had more of that.
Obviously Mr Sarkozy’s views were strongly contrasted by those of the British prime minister, David Cameron, who gave his ‘Europe’ speech during the morning. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend from the beginning, but I would like to highlight the question asked by a BBC reporter during Q and A. She took lots of applause when putting to Mr Cameron that he is not a good salesman for the UK as he has effectively said during the last 24 hours that any business considering investing into the UK might be faced with a country that is no longer part of the EU within the next 5 years, and he further commented that if a company still wants to come it will have to pay more taxes and it will be under severe public scrutiny to actually do so. Mr Cameron replied stating that he acts in the best interest of Britain…obviously he was well shaved and to his credit the room was packed with journalists, nevertheless he clearly could not convince much of the audience. It cannot be in the best interest of Britain when its leader puts European unification and all its benefits at risk for a short term political gain.
The last 24 hours have given me so much to write about, I could go on for quite some time, but business is calling, I have to run.