Two weeks ago, a 26-year-old DJ in Kiev ate something that didn't agree with him. He started to feel his guts churn. Then he really started to feel his guts churn. Then he thought he should probably lie down because his guts were really going for it. He got on the phone to his dad, to complain about this whole gut-churn thing. So his dad got the French ambassador to personally drive over in a llimo and put him on a government plane back to Paris. Because his dad was Nicolas Sarkozy, profligate patriarch, the latest Last King Of France.
It is said of the French that they elect their monarchy, but no one has tested this principle to destruction quite like President Sarko. It cost his taxpayers some £30,000 to ship his idiot son Pierre home. (Originally, he told reporters he'd paid the bill personally. It turned out he'd only paid £8000 of it). When he and his singer wife decided to re-fit the presidential plane, they spent £50,000 on a new bread oven, just so that they could experience the thrill of oven-fresh baguettes at 700mph. He put his 23-year-old other idiot son in charge of La Defense, France's answer to Canary Wharf. He doubled the presidential salary of £88,000 when he took office. He even got divorced some five months into his first term of office, putting an entire nation through the trauma of losing a first lady: probably the moment everyone realised they'd invited the world's worst house-guest into the Elysee Palace.
In their hatred for their president, an entire nation's rationality has gone out of the window. It's no longer about his stewardship of the economy. It's just about him. About his stupid Rolex watches. His dumb Aviator shades. His tan. Those slightly too theatrical scarves he's into. His box heels. The way his stupid nose just sits there in the middle of his stupid face.
How differently the love affair began. Sarko was meant to be some sort of French Maggie Thatcher: elected on a platform of reform and modernisation, empowered to sweep out decrepit restrictive practices. Instead, he's ending his run as Jimmy Carter: weak, hamstrung by events that have long since outrun his ability to deal with them, pilloried by a public who won't be sad to see the door slap him on the arse on his way out.
Compounding his misery is the fact that his opponent is nothing to write home about. Francois Hollande: short, like him. Mild-mannered, witty, but not charismatic with it. He's already picking up the scent of haplessness: he's been flour-bombed in the past week, and gave a speech wherein he quoted Shakespeare: “They failed because they did not start with a dream,” which someone forgot to tell him was a quote from Nicholas Shakespeare, the Telegraph's theatre critic. Not Bill. The quotes guy. Hollande has his own fond nicknames: inspiring ones like 'Mr Ordinary', and 'The Quiet Man'. That's right: Sarko can't even beat France's Iain Duncan Smith.
We tend to think of the French as innate lefties who like nothing more than a Working Times Directive and a punitive tax rate with their Orangina. Except that, in point of fact, since World War II France has only ever elected one left-wing president: Francois Mitterand. In April, after 19 straight years of right-wingers, that's finally about to change. And with it, another piece of trivia will be blown away: that no incumbent has ever lost a re-election bid. If all the polls are to be believed, Nicolas Sarkozy will shortly become the first one-term president of the Fifth Republic, and thereby a piece of pub quiz trivia in his own right.
Scraping along the bottom, two percentage points separate him from Marine Le Pen, leader of France's version of the National Front. Given that people often don't tell pollsters that they're about to vote for a swivel-eyed send-em-back party, he now stands in real danger of being beaten into the last-two run-off election. That would make him an even-more-massive loser, and everyone would laugh at him very hard for an afternoon, before finally conceding that they probably ought to try and prevent the National Front from actually running the country.
Illustration by Joss Frank