David Cameron has refused to meet François Hollande, the French presidential hopeful, when the Socialist candidate visits London on Wednesday on a campaigning visit to the hundreds of thousands of ex-pats who have made their home in the British capital. The British prime minister has given his full backing to Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential contest, describing him in an interview with Le Figaro this month as being “a brave politician” with “great leadership qualities”.
Mr Cameron let it be known through the British embassy in Paris that he would not be available to meet Mr Hollande, when he travels to London for a full day of meeting and campaign stops. Downing Street said that the decision was down to protocol, since Mr Cameron does not want to meet candidates during an election period; privately the prime minister's aides admitted he did not want to give any help to Mr Sarkozy’s opponent.
Although Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy have had a tempestuous public relationship, relations are better in private and were forged during the joint Anglo-French military operation in Libya. Meanwhile Mr Hollande has said his “real enemy” is the world of finance, a comment that antagonised Mr Cameron and is unlikely to play well with many of the premier’s potential electors who earn their living in the City of London.