French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the leader of UK's opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, at Elysee Palace in Paris on Tuesday. The meeting comes as Starmer — increasingly confident that he can oust the ruling Conservatives and bring Labour back into government for the first time in well over a decade — has been making a number of appearances on the world stage.
Little information has been given about the contents of Tuesday's talks in Paris, but Starmer recently told The Financial Times in an interview that he would seek closer ties with the European Union, while ruling out any attempt to rejoin the bloc, if he were to win.
It is not unusual for Macron to meet with opposition leaders, but the talks in Paris will not provide Starmer with any kind of endorsement from the French president.
Macron similarly met with German presidential hopefuls Olaf Scholz, now German Chancellor, and Armin Laschet, ahead of the 2021 German election.
It's really just a question of meeting and hearing what Labour would do differently and that's it, Georgina Wright, a European politics expert at French think-tank Institut Montaigne commented
She predicted that Macron will be as much as he can in listening mode but may also highlight France's priorities.
For the French, Starmer's visit is unlikely to generate much excitement, especially considering that it comes a day before a delayed state visit by King Charles and Queen Camilla.
Starmer has been trying to prove his worth as an international statesman, visiting Europol in The Hague last week and appearing with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Canadian city of Montreal.
The visit to Paris highlights the important relationship between the UK and France, one that has only recently begun to warm again after disputes over the Brexit leaving deal.
Recent opinion polls have put Labour up to 20 points ahead of the Conservatives, who have been in power since 2010.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is the fifth Conservative prime minister to serve over that period, must call an election by January 2025. Under the current term, Tory UK has seen the completion of Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic, soaring inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.