Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac made efforts to put recent fisticuffs behind them, when they publicly kissed and made up in Paris last week.
Sadly, relations are now frostier than ever, after the PM decided to invite Chirac’s arch-nemesis, French home affairs minister Nicolas Sarkozy, for a secret tête à tête in Westminster on Monday.
Although Downing Street initially denied that any meeting had taken place, it was later forced to issue a “clarification,” saying that the two had been involved in “private discussions”.
Now details have reached Pandora of both the contents of their conversation, and the extraordinary lengths that Downing Street went to in a bid to prevent the summit from becoming public.
Initially, I gather that Sarkozy was due to arrive at Downing Street at 11am, for talks in the PM’s private office. However, he was later instructed to present himself at the Marriott Hotel next to Westminster Bridge at 8.30pm. Staff ushered him into a private suite, where Blair spent an hour, discussing what one French observer has described as the “British economic model.”
This marks a severe breach of protocol on both men’s part. Sarkozy is Minister for the Interior – the equivalent of Charles Clarke – so was upstaging Chirac by discussing economic affairs.
Blair, for his part, should never have held official talks with Sarkozy. In any case, economics are supposed to be Gordon Brown’s baby. His spokesman will say only: “It was a private and informal meeting.”
Guido first drew attention to this on Monday.