That Macron chap's a genius, right? Inviting Trump over to Paris, the city he claims isn't itself anymore (sorry, the city he says his good, real-life mate claims isn't itself anymore), giving him a free meal inside the Eiffel Tower, showing him a patriotic military parade, reminding the world's press of their close friendship? It all points towards how much of a master manipulator he is.
This is roughly the position much of the press took when reporting on Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump's day out in the City of Lights. What I find fascinating is the difference in tone many of these publications took when covering Theresa May's visit to Washington in January. Then, a leader of a large European country with a surprisingly fragile economy cosying up to Trump was seen as desperate. Now, it's being portrayed as a bromance. Why?
(Credit: Dominique Pineiro)
Could it be down to image? Quite possibly. Even back in January, with high approval ratings and a majority in the Commons, May lacked a certain something. Vast swathes of the country disliked her, she'd never won an election to show that she had a real mandate to rule and her majority was slim and hardly of her doing. On top of that, there were other troubles brewing. Even back at the peak of her powers, there was an uneasy feeling in the air, a feeling that sooner or later the inevitable economic slowdown would start to bite and then she'd be in real trouble. That's partly why the Tories were so keen on holding an early election - better to get it out the way and get a strong mandate to lead than to wait until 2020 when the economy is likely to have sunk even further.
(Credit: The White House)
Macron, on the other hand, came across very differently last week. His honeymoon is still very much raging, despite his recent comments on Africa. His party has a big majority in the French parliament, he was elected in a landslide and even his Netflix documentary wasn't half bad. When he invited Trump to France, it looked to most people like it was on his own terms, or as much as things can be when dealing with Trump. And not to be too harsh, but people like Macron. He won power by being fresh, young and charismatic. May won because she was seen as a safe pair of hands. One image gives people hope, the other far less so.
That said, regardless of what happened on Bastille Day, I'm not expecting Macron and Trump to become best friends. It seems more likely that the French president noticed Trump's issues with Angela Merkel and swooped in to try and become the friendly face of the EU to America. It's clever politics, something you'd be hard pressed to say about May's attempts to get into Trump's good books. For as long as she's Prime Minister, she needs to be more careful about how she deals with Trump. As she's discovered, the 'Macron way' only seems to apply to a select few.