| 2.9°C Dublin

Carla's album halted as Sarkozy faces the music in strikes crisis

As a million protesters marched against President Nicolas Sarkozy, France learned that the Elysee Palace had moved to save Carla Bruni from what might be called a Marie Antoinette moment.

The president's wife was advised to delay the release of her new album because it would look frivolous while criticism and protests over his administration were mounting.

The suggested delay would avoid hostility of the kind that greeted word of Queen Marie Antoinette's supposed advice in 1789 to the hungry to eat brioche.

The woes experienced by President Sarkozy are mounting, with a scandal over his links to rich campaign donors and anger over the economy and reforms believed to favour the rich.

Transport and public services were disrupted yesterday in the fifth day of strikes and protests against him this year.

Paris Match, a weekly that often serves as the gazette of the Sarkozy court, reported friction between the couple over Ms Bruni's devotion to her musical career. The former supermodel, who relaunched herself as a pop singer, had finished composing 24 songs and was ready to enter the studio to record her fourth album in seven years, the magazine said, but Mr Sarkozy's team had persuaded her to wait because of the hostility to the president.


"How do you release a disc in the middle of a political debacle? How will that be seen by the voters? France suffers while Madame sings," said the report, which was written by a journalist dispatched to follow the Sarkozys on a private visit to New York last weekend. "For the ruler's advisers, it was urgent to postpone the studio dates. Carla has ended up resigning herself to that."

Ms Bruni's entourage denied that she had postponed a recording. Rebecca Hayat, her spokeswoman, said Ms Bruni was still composing and that no studio date had been set. She was not aware of any intervention by the Elysee Palace over its release.

However, insiders have reported growing concern in the Elysee that Ms Bruni's jet-set image is not an asset. Besma Lahouri, author of a new biography of Ms Bruni, calls her a liability to the president. Comparisons with Marie Antoinette appear on the internet.

Paris Match also reported tension on the set of a Woody Allen film in late July, in which Ms Bruni had a small role. Mr Sarkozy lost his temper when he tried to take Ms Bruni home and Allen wanted her to carry on working after midnight, the report said. Allen denied this month that there had been any trouble, but witnesses said there had been a row.

Two of Ms Bruni's new songs could spell trouble for the president. One, called Raymond, is a parody on the life of a president. Another is about national identity. That theme landed the president in hot water this year, when he was accused of pandering to xenophobia with a campaign supposed to define Frenchness.