This isn’t so much a post as the exorcism of an idea that has been rattling around in my brain like a poltergeist for the past 10 days: to wit, the eerie similarity between a certain well-known Monty Python sketch and responses to the taunt leveled earlier this month by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the failure of the “Anglo-Saxon market model.” From the high dudgeon expressed by the UK government and financial authorities, you’d have thought that Sarko had called Gordon Brown a “son of a silly person.”
But Sarkozy was just expressing a bit of Gallic glee at seeing a Frenchman–Michel Barnier–named as the EU’s new financial regulator, with authority over the economic powerhouse that is the City of London, home to 80 percent of Europe’s hedge funds, over 500 banks, and weapons-grade smugness. Who can blame the French President for a bit of what his neighbors to the East would call schadenfreude?
Meanwhile, rather than simply ignoring Sarkozy’s snark, UK political and financial authorities have engaged in what can only be described as a collective freakout. The Telegraph warned that the City of London would meet the same fate as former financial capital Antwerp in an opinion piece subtly titled “City in Danger of Falling Victim to EU Wiles.” Wiles! Oh those wicked, wicked froggies, with their delectable baked goods, and their supermodel First Ladies, and their wily ways!
Then The Times of London claimed that Sarkozy had “gloated” with “an edge of menace” at the announcement of Barnier’s appointment. The article was titled, with a War of the Worlds flourish, “We Are in Charge Now, Sarkozy Tells the City.” That the Times’ editors failed to caption Sarko’s picture with the words “Resistance is useless!” can only be described as a tragic oversight.
Making up for that missed opportunity, another publication quoted the chief executive of the British Banker’s Association responding to Sarkozy in language normally associated with Marvel Comics villains:
“If anyone in the European project thinks for a minute that they are capable of subverting the years of effort it took us to make the UK the world’s financial centre, they are sadly mistaken.”
Ooohhhh…”sadly mistaken”!?! The next lines of the quote must have been something like: “You’ll be sorry, Sarko-man! We shall be avenged for this impudent taunting of yours! Bwaahahahah…” [Flies off into the night, presumably back to the BBA Bat-Vault. You know there is one.]
Honestly, it’s almost funnier than the Monty Python “French Taunting” sketch. If this is history repeating itself, can the first time be comedy and the second time farce?