On Monday, President Sarkozy of France sent two Islamic extremists back to countries where they could have expected anything but a warm welcome.
The European Court of Human Rights, of which France, like us, is a member, was given no opportunity to voice its feelings on the matter.
Almamy Baradji was expelled back to Mali for preaching anti-Semitism and calling on women to wear the full veil — something that is now illegal in France.
Ali Belhadad, meanwhile — convicted of taking part in a terrorist attack in 1994 in Marrakesh that killed 14 people — was flown to his native Algiers after police discovered he had resumed contact with Islamic activists.
Compare this resolute action with the farce in Britain over the attempted deportation to Jordan of hate preacher Abu Qatada, which ended with him and his family recently being accommodated in a bigger, more expensive and more comfortable house than they were before.
Because Jordan has yet to promise not to do beastly things to Qatada if he is sent there, he must continue to live at the expense of the British taxpayer.
This may not be our last such humiliation. We await word from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg as to whether we can rid ourselves of the equally loathsome Abu Hamza, wanted by the Americans to stand trial on terrorism charges.
Contrast that craven approach with France’s express deportations this week. Already promising at least three more, President Sarkozy said: ‘Those who make remarks contrary to the values of the Republic will be put outside the French Republic. There will be no exceptions.’
For all his faults — and for all France’s — he and his country have a definite sense of themselves and their national identity. They are proud of their heritage and their culture.
When you think of the impossibility of David Cameron, or his puppet- master Nick Clegg, saying anything similar about British identity and values, you start to understand why Qatada and Hamza were not on a plane out years ago.
t is important, of course, to understand the context of recent events in France. In just 17 days’ time — on April 22 — Sarkozy faces the first round of a presidential election. Until about three weeks ago, it was not looking remotely good for him.
His socialist challenger, Francois Hollande — who might pass as a rural bank manager — was far ahead of him in the polls.
Mr Sarkozy was doing so badly that he was in real danger of being beaten into third place by Marine Le Pen, who has done much to clean up the Front National that under her father was itself a repository of racism, anti-Semitism and various other bigotries.
Then came the shocking events of Toulouse, where an Islamic extremist proclaiming himself as an al-Qaeda operative murdered a rabbi and three Jewish children in cold blood. France, not always known for its sympathy for the Jews, was convulsed in outrage.
Mr Sarkozy — who himself has a part-Jewish heritage — articulated that outrage brilliantly. Putting aside any notions that it might be in bad taste to exploit such a horror for political gain, he proceeded to do exactly that.
If he wanted to keep his head above water politically, he had little choice.
His strategy worked. He climbed in the polls to put himself neck-and-neck with Mr Hollande and, in one poll, even sneaked just ahead of him. All in all, the public thought his response to the Toulouse outrage was just right.
The President did not stop there. He directed massive police resources to catching the terrorist, and having quickly succeeded in doing so, he promised further strictures against those do not share the values of the French Fifth Republic. A number of suspects were rounded up, and he proceeded with this week’s deportations.
So Mr Sarkozy has demonstrated just how easy it is for a politician of the Right to improve an apparently catastrophic position by taking the sort of firm action on security matters that is supposedly second nature to conservatives.
Just as importantly, he has shown there is no compulsion to act as the poodle of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
He may yet lose the second round of voting on May 6 — current polling on a straight fight between him and Mr Hollande shows the socialist winning by 54 per cent to 46 per cent at least — but by identifying himself with the nationalistic instincts of the French people, he has put himself back into the contest.
Why on earth does our own Prime Minister not understand the need to stand up for comparable instincts among electors — many of them his natural supporters — on this side of the Channel?
If Mr Sarkozy can treat the ECHR with contempt to improve his standing with his voters, why can’t Mr Cameron?
In the wake of the battering the Tories have faced over child benefit, the granny tax, the pasty tax, and jibes about ‘government by chums’, wouldn’t it at least show he shares the values of his voters to order the immediate deportation of two extremists who hate Britain as much as they exploit it? And wouldn’t it actually be the right thing to do?
When Qatada was released from prison and allowed to remain in Britain, the word in Westminster was that Mr Cameron would happily have marched him onto the next plane to Amman — but Nick Clegg had said he would not tolerate such disregard for the ECHR. It is all too credible.
Mr Cameron might also benefit from a study of Sarkozy’s recent threat during a campaign rally to take France out of the Schengen Agreement, which allows free movement across EU borders, unless the number of illegal immigrants was reduced.
It was a bold political gambit, and one which struck at one of the central pillars of European integration.
Though Britain is not a signatory to Schengen, preferring — in theory at least — to take control of its own borders, it is hard to imagine Mr Cameron making a threat of equivalent gravity.
Until now, he seems to have been able to do little to address the continuing problem of mass immigration, which his Coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, seem positively to encourage.
Last week, the independent Office of National Statistics published revised projections which showed that the United Kingdom population is expected to grow from 62.3 million in mid-2010 to 67.2 million by mid-2020. By 2034, the number of people living here will be up to 73.2 million, a rise of nearly 11 million over 25 years.
Already, Britain is one of the most densely populated nations in the Western world, yet by all accounts the pace of growth is only going to accelerate.
But the Prime Minister is desperate to avoid offending Mr Clegg, the old maids of the Civil Service, or the ECHR, even if it, for example, means harbouring dangerous terrorists in our midst.
He finds it acceptable, though, to affront his core vote, and millions of Christians, by suggesting that homosexuals should be allowed to marry.
It comes down to a question of will. Will is a quality people like in their political leaders. Causing others to doubt that he has much will at all won’t do Mr Cameron any favours when he seeks re-election.
But it also comes back to the question of cultural identity. Perhaps it is because of outsider Mr Sarkozy’s Hungarian-Jewish heritage that he looks for what General de Gaulle called ‘a certain idea of France’, embraces it, celebrates it and protects it.
It may be the cynical act of a politician desperate for votes, but it works.
If only Mr Cameron could bring himself to embrace and celebrate a clear British identity, and the historically-based values that stem from it, he, too, might do what is required to stand up for that country, and those values.
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