Wasn’t it wonderful living in Paris

One of Nicolas Sarkozy’s (six or eight thousand) campaign promises was a “droit au logement opposable,” a… this is a bit hard to translate… an exchangeable or tradeable right to housing. Basically — and this is kind of important, given what’s happened — Sarkozy’s point was that the right to housing, for any person regardless of means, mustn’t be an abstract ideal, or a pious wish. It must be a right that could be exchanged against a demand: people whose applications for social housing must be able to bang their fist on the table and demand that the state cut through red tape and furnish humane housing. Simple social justice, you see. Nicolas Sarkozy, tribune of the people.

Six months after the law came into power, 7,000 demands have been filed, and nine families have been moved into social housing. On a visit to Paris, Andrew Potter told me I should write the definitive English-language book about Nicolas Sarkozy. I knew then, and decided soon after, that I wasn’t up to the task and that at any rate, life is too short to devote to unpleasant tasks. But if I ever did write it, it would essentially be a book about the devastating effects of arrant jaw-flapping as a technique of political leadership.

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