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Party fears Nicolas Sarkozy 'kamikaze' address

By John Lichfield in Paris

In an act of supreme courage, or electoral suicide, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was last night expected to tell people to work harder for lower pay and higher taxes.

Mr Sarkozy, speaking to the nation as president but not yet as candidate, was due to call for a higher rate of VAT and changes in employment law to permit wage cuts and longer hours.

In a nationwide TV address, he planned to adopt what some of his supporters called a 'courageous' or 'Churchillian' defence against the increasingly powerful challenge of the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande.

Other despairing politicians spoke of a 'kamikaze' approach to an election that might already be slipping from his grasp.

Mr Sarkozy was expected to say that urgent and radical reforms were now needed to allow France to compete in Europe and the world.

Following the loss of France's triple-A credit rating and a surge in unemployment to nearly 10pc, emergency action was required to restore the competitiveness of the French economy.

However, there is little chance these measures will be passed before the elections.

Many of his own centre-right supporters say that voters will fail to understand why such drastic action is needed after five years of modest reform and zig-zag economic policies.

There is widespread frustration in his UMP party at Mr Sarkozy's refusal to join in the hurly-burly of the campaign.

Officially, he plans to remain "presidential" for as long as possible and declare in late February or early March.

But some UMP politicians fear that last night's proposals prove that Mr Sarkozy knows that he cannot win. They fear that he wants to go down with guns blazing.

(© Independent News Service)

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