WE are told that the former Carla Bruni, now the First Lady of France, has been practising the “full curtsey” for her first meeting with Queen Elizabeth when she and her husband begin their State Visit to Britain tomorrow. That is not the only sign of a greater formality in attitudes at the Elysee Palace.

Following the rebuff administered to him by the French voters in the second round of municipal elections last Sunday, Nicolas Sarkozy has instituted a number of reforms in the way he carries out the duties of President. He has abandoned his weekly press conferences which had become notorious for the appearance of off-the-cuff policy-making he gave at them. In terms of votes cast last Sunday's elections were not disastrous for President Sarkozy -- nationally, the Socialists and their allies took 49 per cent of the votes while his supporters got 47 per cent -- but the result was the loss of several key municipalities which his centre-right party should have held so soon after his own convincing victory in the presidential election last year. President Bling-Bling, as he is known, has only himself to blame. He has seemed to prefer announcing initiatives to the hard work of carrying them out. It will not be easy to recapature the heady 65 per cent approval rate of last year that has dropped to 37 per cent in ten months.