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Ooh la la! Starmer’s invitation to meet Macron is a coup très formidable

Foreign governments read our opinion polls too – which is why the sudden outburst of French cordiality is a clear sign they think they know who’ll be the next PM, writes John Rentoul

Wednesday 13 September 2023 19:15 BST
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Macron’s handshake is more significant than a chance for Starmer to pose as a world leader. It is a vote of confidence in Labour at the next election
Macron’s handshake is more significant than a chance for Starmer to pose as a world leader. It is a vote of confidence in Labour at the next election (PA/Getty)

The Labour leader’s team were so excited about Keir Starmer meeting Emmanuel Macron next week that news of the likely engagement leaked before it was confirmed.

They know how important it is that the French president is willing to meet the British leader of the opposition. In the delicate language of diplomacy, in which leaders are reluctant to interfere in the internal politics of another democracy, it says only one thing: that Macron expects Starmer to be prime minister.

Everything else is secondary. A trip to the Elysee Palace (ahead of the King himself) will allow Starmer to strut the world stage. One of his strengths is that he looks the part of prime minister – square suit, square jaw, square hair – but he doesn’t have much foreign policy experience.

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