I was in Le Byblos in St-Tropez the other day. I mention this not to underline how cool I am (think purple Ford Cortina with dangling furry dice) but because it may have a bearing on this week’s epoch-defining British election.
As you probably know, Le Byblos is the resort’s emblematic establishment, the one where the rich, hip and celebrated have been gathering – in some luxury – for 40 years. I managed to corner the manager Christophe Chauvin, a charming young man under the tragic misapprehension that I was someone important.
“Tell me,” I said, “You’ve had all the world’s most famous people through your place: is it possible that anyone can still impress you?”
“I couldn’t possibly tell you,” he said.
“Yes you could; whoever it is will be delighted. Go on: one woman and one man?”
Class, grace & elegance
So he agreed. He had no hesitation in naming the woman. “Claudia Cardinale,” he said. “No-one has more class, grace and elegance.”
M. Chauvin took longer over the man. He was concentrating hard. Then he astonished me. “Tony Blair,” he said. Here was a hotel manager who had met half of Hollywood, a good slice of the world’s tycoons and planetary leaders in all fields – and the most impressive of the lot was Tony Blair.
“He came in last year on a flying visit between meetings and was incredibly kind and approachable,” said M. Chauvin. “And yet he also had an extraordinary aura. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
So, when you come finally to judge New Labour’s record on Thursday, you might like to bear in mind that its long-time leader unambiguously tops the polls in the marginal constituency of, um, St Tropez. I thought you ought to know.