“I was relieved. I had feared it. I was wrong.”
He adds: “Retrospectively, I understand just how my divorce just after being elected must have unsettled the French.”
Mr Sarkozy sidesteps his current legal woes – he is facing two trials for corruption and abuse of power and campaign fraud.
He comments on just one, now closed, case in which he was acquitted to say: “I believe deeply that when one is innocent, one has nothing to fear from the light and clarity.”
On the parlous state of the party he once led, now called The Republicans, and whose latest leader resigned after scoring a piteous 8.5 per cent in European elections, he remarks: “I aspired to bring together the largest number, not to dominate the sect of my closest partisans.
“Today, sadly, I observe the totally opposite phenomenon. At the slightest disagreement, division seems to have become inevitable.”
On whether he could return to frontline politics, Mr Sarkozy says: “Often, I have been asked if today I miss politics. Invariably, I answer no and I see well that few are those who believe me. Yet it’s the truth if people bother to make the leap that it’s not politics I love, it’s life.”