The MT Diary

Beefing up French universities; Mumbai rises; Singapore watches; referendum wheeze.

by Howard Davies

If you ask a Frenchman for the French word for parsnip, you normally get a puzzled Gallic shrug. In fact, there is a word (panais) but it is little used. 'We feed them to les betes, I think,' they observe cautiously. So it is bold for Our Man on the Faubourg St Honore to offer them up with the rosbif: my polite French neighbours pushed then around the plate for a while, then hid them under their Yorkshire pudding.

But in most other respects the Anglo-French relationship has recently exhibited a touch of global warming. President Nicolas Sarkozy campaigned in person among the London French; his prime minister Francois Fillon is married to a Welshwoman. And there is some interest in Paris now in the way we have changed our pub-lic institutions.

So more than 200 French old boys and girls of the LSE gathered in the Embassy's gilded salons the other day to discuss university reform, one of Sarkozy's early priorities. He has already put forward some modest proposals, but still hasn't grappled with selection or fees.

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