François Hollande, who remains the likely winner of the French presidential election, is in London today, where he will meet Ed Miliband (who will not be endorsing his policy of a 75 per cent top tax rate) but will not meet David Cameron.
The line from Downing Street is that it would be “unsual for the Prime Minister to meet the opposition candidate once an election campaign is underway”. But Cameron has made no secret of his preference for Nicolas Sarkozy. He recently told Le Figaro:
He has done extraordinarily important things for France. It will be for the French people to decide, I do not have to interfere in this choice. Nicolas Sarkozy has my support. I say it clearly.
The standard view on the left and the right is that the Prime Minister, who will have to work with whoever wins, should not interfere in a foreign election. Tory MP Douglas Carswell, for instance, has criticised Cameron for “running our foreign policy like a scene from Love Actually with subtitles”. But the Hollande camp is more relaxed, believing that Sarkozy’s reliance on foreign leaders widens the gulf between him and his people. As Rafael wrote recently, there is no huge electoral advantage for a Socialist candidate to be seen “hobnobbing with the Tory leader”. Cameron, meanwhile, who is anxious to reassure the Tories and the City of his pro-business credentials, has seized an opportunity to snub an “anti-capitalist”.
And with Merkel openly cheering Sarkozy on, we may be seeing a pragmatic acceptance on both sides that socialists will support socialists and conservatives will support conservatives.