JAN MOIR: Why DOES France"s monetary madame reduce our men to mush?

Why DOES France's monetary madame reduce our men to mush



07:09 GMT, 25 May 2012

Christine Lagarde is the ninth most-powerful woman in the world. Check her out. Feel the clout. The 56-year-old head of the International Monetary Fund is truly formidable in every way. She is clever, gracious, commanding, astute.

Always as crisp as a meringue and sharp as a frosted tack, Lagarde has risen to the top through hard work and endeavour.

Over the years, she moved through the ranks like a velvet arrow; ever onwards and upwards, from lawyer, partner and government minister, to become the first woman to be in charge of economic policy in France.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde has a certain allure, says Robert Peston

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde has a certain allure, says Robert Peston

In addition, she has been or still is a wife, mother-of-two, divorcee, lover, vegetarian and member of the French national synchronised swimming team.

Whatever way you look at it, Miss Lagarde is a remarkable woman. Ballet legs, perfectly julienned carrots, sub-aqua scissor kicks and fiscal policy — her skills set is breathtaking.

Then she comes to Britain, she bowls into London to talk about the situation we have all come to know and dread as ‘the deepening euro crisis’ and — oh la la! — it all starts to go horribly, terribly, embarrassingly wrong.

Across the rest of Europe and the world, Lagarde is accepted and respected as an important international personage upon whose word the stock of a nation can rise of fall.

Here — oh lawks! — we just cannot cope with her. Or, more importantly, our menfolk cannot cope.

One glimpse of Christine’s blonde bob or her elegant carriage — and I don’t mean her official car — and they become undone.

The BBC's business editor Robert Peston appeared to have fallen for Lagarde's charms

The BBC's business editor Robert Peston appeared to have fallen for Lagarde's charms

Faced with her particular silver foxette charms and potent mix of brains and that certain older-woman beauty, they start dribbling and babbling like blushing schoolboys.

Captains of industry, politicians, financial commentators, broadcasters who know should know better. They all drop like clammy ninepins when she so much as looks at them.

Lagarde only has to utter the words ‘I shiver’ — as she did this week — for a mass breakout of manly goosebumps and gaffes.

On the Today programme on Wednesday, interrogator John Humphrys asked Lagarde if she ever woke up ‘sweating in the middle of the night’.

When she laughed coquettishly at this clumsy double entendre, you could almost feel the spark of sexual chemistry igniting the Humphrys mainframe before frazzling him to a crisp, like a forgotten Welsh cake on a smoking griddle.

Lagarde is indeed a beauty, with a face that has been allowed to age naturally and speaks of a life lived in health and happiness.

The BBC’s Robert Peston was even worse. On a radio show, Peston was discussing the IMF’s scrutiny of the British economy and the fact that Lagarde had given the UK a ‘C or C minus’ rating.

Serious stuff. Instead of pausing to point out that our rating was really none of her business, he started slobbering like a lovesick teen, describing her mannerisms as ‘silken’ before losing his composure and begging for a drink of water. Talk about Pesto sauce!

‘She is one of the most charming politicians in the world,’ he foamed. He also said: ‘I have to say I’ve met her a few times and she’s a very seductive politician, let’s put it that way.’

Even George Osborne has paid tribute to Lagarde’s smoky allure, which makes me think: poor Christine.

She comes here on serious business, her briefcases packed full of important figures and complicated sums about the stare of the world economy.

Despite this, Madame Lagarde still gets treated like Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy character in the final scenes of the film, Grease. She gives them chills, they’re multiplying — and they’re losing control. The power she’s supplying It’s electrifying!

What is their problem Well, since time immemorial, or at least since Brigitte Bardot first climbed into a gingham bikini, there has always been a certain kind of Frenchwoman who renders a certain kind of British man completely insensible. The more powerful she is, the better for them. The more soignee she is, the more gaga they will be.

You cannot blame the 11th IMF president for the reaction she causes, for she has always presented herself as more of a femme serieuse than a femme fatale. Despite this, there is a certain delicious strictness in her manner that makes strong chancellors weak at the knees.

In the end, this obsession says more about the men who fantasise about her than it does about Christine herself. ‘Notice me, headmistress!’ is their cri de coeur. ‘Please spank me with your C minus,’ could be another.

X Factor judg, Geri Halliwell arriving at the first day of auditions in Liverpool, at the Echo Arena

X Factor judg, Geri Halliwell arriving at the first day of auditions in Liverpool, at the Echo Arena

However, I suspect that this impressive woman would brush off any sexism with her undoubted good humour. You can only be trivial if you allow yourself to be trivialised, and there is no danger of that happening with big momma Christine any time soon.

So may I say how terrific it is to see a woman somewhere to the north of 50 having such an effect. How refreshing to see such a toot of triumph for the older lady, for a change.

Lagarde is indeed a beauty, with a face that has been allowed to age naturally and speaks of a life lived in health and happiness.

Just look across Paris and compare this with Carla Sarkozy’s tragic face — once so lovely, now so bloated with Botox and God knows what. It is poignant and sad that Carla felt the need to do this, but another example of how smart and at ease with herself the IMF president is.

And that’s a whole big attraction in itself. Is this what so appeals to raunchy Robbo Peston
Perhaps we will never know exactly what it is that makes French women so sizzling and potent.

Whatever it is, it’s nothing short of fantastique.

Ginger Spice More like Old Spice

Is the world prepared for the return of Geri Halliwell to prime time Not me, readers. Whimper. I'll never be ready for Geri.

The 39-year-old, highly-strung holy terror formerly known as Ginger Spice has been signed up as a judge for the new series of The X Factor. This is a bit like throwing a puppy onto a pile of lightbulbs. It is not going to be pretty. Someone is going to get hurt. There will be tears.

It's not exactly as if Self-Obsessed Spice has good judging credentials. Geri has always been so dazzled by her own talents that it is hard to imagine she will be able to detect the quiet spark of genius in others.

In an interview a few years back, she said: 'I find it hard to be really impressed by people.' You don't say.

She has also talked of her wish to associate only with attractive, effervescent people like . . . um, herself.

'It is a blessing to have pretty people around me. I like people who are sparky, positive.

'Evil, dark people are repelled by me: “Oooh no! Too much sunlight.” '

Too much something, that's for sure.

Heaven knows how this is going to play out when she is considering the merits of a spotty, toothless teen from Dudley who wants to be a rap star.

Elsewhere, she has described herself in glowing terms as someone who enjoys toilet humour ('I love talking about poo and wee'), but also thinks she has grown up a lot ('I think of myself as being on the bridge between youth and wisdom.') You have been warned.

He's no flaming hero

It didn’t take long for Olympic torch-bearing to turn into a flaming fiasco, did it Organisers originally claimed they wanted the torch run to honour local, unsung heroes.

So why was The Voice judge Will.i.am (right) jogging through Somerset this week He’s not a sportsman, he’s not a local hero, he’s not even British — he’s a cosmic pixie from Planet Pea.

Surprise addition: Will.i.am carries the Olympic Flame in Taunton

Surprise addition: Will.i.am carries the Olympic Flame in Taunton

And as manager of Cheryl Cole, surely he should have been in Cannes, making sure her bra plasters weren’t showing Not moonwalking through Taunton with the Olympic flame.

Perhaps it is more understandable why football hero Didier Drogba was torch-bearing in Swindon on Wednesday. Yet he spent longer being photographed than running through the streets. It’s laughable.

Elsewhere, a few members of the public have managed to wrestle celebrities and become torch-bearers themselves. And some have been castigated for trying to sell their torches on eBay. This seems unfair.

Companies such as McDonald’s, Lloyds, Coca-Cola, Visa and Samsung will make a fortune from the Games. You can’t blame ordinary people for trying to do the same. And at least some of them are doing it for charity, not just to line their own pockets.

Spare a thought for Mrs Birdman

Did you get up to anything interesting on Wednesday afternoon Birdman Gary Connery did.
He became the first person in history to willingly jump out of a helicopter without wearing a proper parachute.

From half a mile up, the stuntman sailed through the Buckinghamshire skies wearing only his ‘Wingman’ suit — a contraption that appears to be little more than a lilo strapped to his back.

Landing safely on a pile of cardboard boxes, he said; ‘It was absolutely wonderful. I’m really buzzing. I’m in a really strange place right now.’

Yes. You’re in a carton in the middle of a field. Of course, it’s his wife Vivienne I feel sorry for.
As well as coping with Gary, she must also contend with a teenage son who is a downhill ski racer.

I don’t know what it is that Mrs C puts in their tea, but she seems to have a shrewd grasp of family matters. ‘He’s a nutter,’ she said of her husband.

Birdman Gary’s next project is to turn himself into a human firework.

Crazy hunch, but I’m guessing he won’t just be a sparkler.

Morgana Robinson as actress Helena Bonham Carter for the Channel 4 television programme Very Important People

Morgana Robinson as actress Helena Bonham Carter for the Channel 4 television programme Very Important People

VIP makes a good impression

I love Very Important People, the new Friday-night comedy on Channel 4.

Impression shows often fail because the impressions are good but the script is poor, or vice versa. Not here.

Impressionists Morgana Robinson and Terry Mynott are incredibly talented and rip into their cavalcade of celebrity grotesques with relish, satirising a culture swamped with trivia and smuggery as they go.

Natalie Cassidy, Gordon Ramsay, Helena Bonham-Carter (left) and Amy Childs are among those crawling across the showbiz swamplands, only to be mocked here with energy and style.

I particularly like their Dr Brian Cox and the way they have spotted and skewered his secret self-regard.

The caffeine-rich Fearne Cotton, doing her horn hand signs and shouting ‘Amazing!’ at every opportunity, is another joy.

* I do get worried when reading continual reports that someone was ‘sent home by his/her GP’, only to suffer later from some dreadful complaint that could perhaps have been rectified if spotted.

So my sympathies are with the grandmother, still in intensive care this week, after contracting rabies while on holiday in India. She visited her GP feeling unwell but failed to say she’d been abroad and was sent home with not much more than an aspirin.

No, it is not always easy for doctors, especially if they’re not told the whole picture.

Yet I worry that unless you walk into a GP’s surgery with an axe embedded in the front of your skull and a sign pointing towards the wound saying ‘PAIN HERE!’, you will not get the accurate diagnosis you need.