I suppose our leaders have to do that smiling thing as they arrive at summits (though I can’t think they and we would all be happier if a lot of the ceremonials were scrapped, the trumpeteers confined to barracks, and the leaders just got on with the business of trying to rescue the world economy).
There is something particularly incongruous about the smiling and backslapping and walkabouting today, given the backdrop.
A far more honest and representative picture is printed in some of this morning’s papers, of President Sarkozy looking rather menacingly, hands clasped together as though in prayer, at a surprisingly confident-looking Greek PM George Papandreou.
I am doing This Week with Andrew Neil and Michael Portillo tonight (bloody late I note from the schedules) and if they ask me for my ‘moment of the week,’ it will certainly be the moment when Papandreou announced the Greek referendum on the latest bailout.
The French reaction is clear on Sarkozy’s face. An equally grim-looking Angela Merkel alongside him shares his view. So does the IMF boss Christine Lagarde as she stares at them rather nervously.
All so different to the backslapping for the arrivals shot camera crews, or the backslapping at end of the EU crisis summit where the now rocky deal was first thrashed out, and seemingly nobody asked Big George the Big R question.
I’m not sure about the French slogan for the G20 either ‘nouveau monde, nouvelles idees.’ I get the new world bit. The new ideas are yet to become clear.
Instead we are looking at a fairly desperate group of people. I don’t mean anything disparaging in that. They have enormous responsibilities on their shoulders. But when they are described as ‘the 20 most powerful leaders in the world’ that is not how they are feeling.
Bizarrely, the one who seemed to have the greatest sense of his own power is Papandreou when he announced the referendum. Yet he has become the victim of his own move. And he may not be the last EU leader to be brought down by this crisis.
So high stakes for all. And of course the other picture emerging from Cannes, again blurred by the old order size of motorcades and wow factor (Obama still leads on both) is the shift of economic and political power eastwards. China remains way behind the Western economies when measured in GDP per head. But in economic clout, they have moved from Blue Square Premier to Champions League in fairly short order.
Perhaps Eastern power is the new idea on the table at Cannes. It is not however what Sarko’s slogan writers had in mind when they were dreaming of a new financial architecture for a new age.