Europe

Theresa May's French PR gamble in meeting Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron meets the UK Prime Minister Theresa May on 26 May 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The leaders are set to discuss counter-terrorism and attend a football friendly together - but inevitably their contrasting fortunes are attracting comment

It is a gift to newspaper cartoonists and headline writers - and a PR gamble for the UK prime minister.

Theresa May visits President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday, as he basks in the glow of election success and she recovers from a gruelling setback at the polls.

He faced down the French establishment to secure a landslide presidential win and topped it off on Sunday with a commanding first-round lead in parliamentary elections.

Mrs May faced calls to resign after her parliamentary majority was wiped out in Thursday's general election.

Heading abroad for some international wheeler-dealing is "a classic move to shore up authority at home," one analyst told AFP news agency.

Their contrasting electoral fortunes are too glaring for observers to ignore, and some drew attention to some uncomfortable moments in history.

Image copyright Twitter/Telegraph

"This, Madame May, is victory," the French president tells his visitor as they pass crowds of his cheering supporters, in a cartoon by Patrick Blower in Tuesday's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

French newspaper Libération could not resist pointing out that another embattled UK Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was on a visit to Paris in 1990 when a party vote triggered her downfall.

Advantage France?

Some commentators compare their fortunes - or misfortunes - when it comes to Brexit.

In the FT, a Ferguson cartoon depicts the two leaders at tennis - Mr Macron serving with an enormous EU-flag-themed tennis racket to the prime minister's undersized racket.

But the accompanying article is deadly serious - headlined "Emmanuel Macron will offer no mercy to Theresa May". Far from "helping Britain get off the hook of a hard Brexit", argues Gideon Rachman, "for President Macron, Brexit is looking increasingly like a historic opportunity rather than a cause for regret".

"It is advantage France," the article concludes.

That perspective is shared by the editorial director of The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Image copyright Twitter

France's new leader may not entirely have the upper hand. He may be heading for a landslide in parliament but it is on the back of a record low turnout, attributed to a sense of resignation among his opponents.

Polls suggest he will win upwards of 400 seats in France's 577-seat National Assembly. But his party did win a smaller share of the popular vote than Theresa May's Conservatives.

Image copyright Twitter

So when the two leaders sit down to a working dinner there will be plenty on the menu, not least their plans for social media companies to face fines if they fail to remove extremist material.

Stade de France to sing God Save the Queen

They share the same preoccupations, in the wake of a series of horrifying Islamist militant attacks on both sides of the Channel. Most recently, 22 people died in a suicide attack in Manchester and eight were murdered at London Bridge, including three French nationals.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A moving ceremony took place when England met France at Wembley on 17 November 2015

Four days after Paris came under attack by jihadists in November 2015, Wembley stadium gave a rousing rendition of the Marseillaise ahead of an international friendly between England and France.

That honour will be returned at the Stade de France when the two footballing nations meet again, watched by President Macron and the UK prime minister.

The Oasis song "Don't Look Back in Anger" will be played as the players emerge, while unusually the UK national anthem will be played last and the words displayed to encourage all fans to sing along.

Not everything can be planned and choreographed, though. Mrs May will be anxious to avoid any own goals from England's defence that might leave France's trademark cockerel crowing.

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