British Conservatives have been irritated by President Sarkozy in recent times. He has fiercely opposed the decision of David Cameron to take Tory MEPs into a more free market, less federalist grouping in the European Parliament. He has celebrated the appointment of a French EU Commissioner who has the aim of "clamping down" on the City of London's financial dominance. More recently he was putting on a 'best friends act' with Gordon Brown as the two agreed on plans to impose a super tax on banker bonuses.
Time magazine believes that the left-wing drift of Sarkozy is part of a wider pattern of "ideological confusion":
"Who is Nicolas Sarkozy? The answer depends on when you study him. Is he the man elected President in May 2007, who immediately set out to lower income taxes, scrap France's 35-hour workweek, revoke special retirement privileges for public-transport workers, and harangue employees to "work more to earn more"? Or is he the leader who in the past year has slapped down greedy bankers, fumed at U.S. and British resistance to French plans for strict new regulations of the global finance sector, and preached the gospel of "moralizing capitalism"? Is he the man, a son of a Hungarian immigrant, who, newly elected, challenged French pretense of color-blind égalité by arguing for American-style affirmative action? Or is he the leader who, facing critical regional elections next March, has begun openly courting voters of the extreme-right National Front with a crackdown on illegal aliens and a divisive national debate on immigration and French identity?"
The confusion is evident in foreign policy, particularly in the area of human rights:
"Sarkozy pledged to place human rights at the top of his list of requirements for diplomatic partners before he was elected but that quickly gave way to an embrace of leaders like Muammar Gaddafi from Libya and Bashar al-Assad from Syria, state trips to pal around with African dictators, and a congratulatory call to Vladimir Putin after his party's December 2007 success in legislative elections marred by accusations of corruption. "What a strange conception of international affairs when you'd criticize someone for his election victory, and the next day ask him to help you solve the crisis with Iran, with Darfur, and lower tensions in the world," Sarkozy told a January 2008 press conference when challenged on the call. "You consider it normal that I'd insult Mr. Putin by saying his victory was illegitimate, then ask the same illegitimate Putin to help solve the world's problems?"
Time concludes that Sarkozy may be representing the confusion at the heart of France generally:
"In many ways, Sarkozy reflects the contradictions of the French themselves: demanding both free markets and social job protection, wanting modernity and tradition, and wanting fast results with no pain. But those are the very hypocrisies voters elected Sarkozy to combat with his own viable vision for France — not take on for use as his own, inconsistent governing style."
His approval rating is down to 39% from 60% according to Ipsos. It is falling fastest among conservatives.