Blairs look a gift horse in the mouth after lunch with Lionel

Joanna Lee

Paris

Europe's two newest left-wing leaders had lunch together yesterday in the village of Saint Martin d'Oydes, in the beautiful Ariege region in south-west France. Tony Blair has been on holiday there with his family and the French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, who was visiting his constituency of Cintegabelle, 20 miles away, drove over for lunch with his wife Sylviane.

The atmosphere was casual. Mr Blair, who has received a royal welcome here since his arrival, looked relaxed in his holiday attire of a shirt and summer trousers. Neither man wore a tie as they strolled through the village, swamped by journalists and television cameras. Most of the 200 inhabitants of the village were also there to welcome them.

The leaders had a glass of champagne with the proud and elated mayor in the village square, where the villagers presented Mr Blair's three children with a young pony called Justin.

However, the children will not be bringing the pony - of the Pyrenees Merens breed - home with them. A Downing Street spokesman said: The gift "was very much appreciated, but the Blairs will leave the horse with a local family who also have children who are able to ride it."

He was unable to say whether the animal was given to the French family to keep or for safekeeping until the Blairs are able to visit it again. It is thought the Blairs may have been concerned about finding adequate stabling for it in the Downing Street area.

As they walked back to the Blair holiday home for lunch, they discussed in French Mr Jospin's budget for 1998. Speaking to journalists, Mr Jospin commented on Mr Blair's youth, and the leaders said that Europe was on the lunch menu, "along with some relaxing chat".

Officials at Mr Jospin's office have been keen to underline the private nature of the lunch. A spokesman from the Matignon said: "We have no idea what the two men will discuss."

However relaxed the meeting was, it is the first time the two leaders have met on a one-to-one basis and both were keen to see what common ground they have, particularly on Europe.

It is likely that the French leader will have tried to gain the support of his British counterpart on jobs in Europe, which will be discussed at the EU employment summit in November. Mr Jospin lobbied for this summit at the intergovernmental conference in Amsterdam in June, emphasising the importance of a "social Europe" and rejecting an EU based solely on economic issues.

Social concerns in Europe have not dampened the French government's enthusiasm for the single currency and Mr Jospin will have been keen to find out exactly where the British stand before he meets Chancellor Helmut Kohl next week. The French Finance Minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is adamant the single currency will go ahead in 1999.

The meeting was also no doubt an effort to dispel the rumours that the pair do not very often see eye to eye. Mr Jospin said: "We have different traditions, but we have common values and we are both socialists."

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: KS1 Primary Teacher in Br...

Year 3 Primary Teacher in Keighley

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 3 Primary Teacher in...

Primary Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD : Randstad Education So...

Credit Controller (Sales Ledger, SAGE)- London, Old Street

£12 per hour: Ashdown Group: Credit Controller - London, Old Street A well es...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor