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World leaders

Sunak and Macron are kindred sprits

Peas in a pod: Macron and Sunak at Cop27 this week. Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty

There’s often a décalage – a mismatch – between the British and French leaders of the day, says Robert Zaretsky in Politico. The “affable and agreeable” Harold Macmillan was paired with the “arrogant and confrontational” Charles de Gaulle; the “unturnable” Margaret Thatcher with the more cooperative François Mitterrand. But with Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron, the fit seems “as tight as the tailored skinny blue suits” they favour. Both are the products of elite education: in Sunak’s case, Winchester and Oxford; for Macron, the Lycée Henri IV and École Nationale d’Administration. And both are the youngest leaders in their nation’s postwar history: Sunak is 42, and Macron was 39 when he became president in 2017.

Perhaps more important, they are creatures of finance who have taken their free-market views into politics. Macron, who once worked for the private bank Rothschild & Co, eliminated France’s wealth tax and lowered its corporate tax rate in his first term as president. Sunak, whose CV includes Goldman Sachs and hedge fund firms, became a Brexiteer because of his small-state convictions. Yet both leaders “had no choice but to act like socialists” during the pandemic: Sunak’s furlough scheme as chancellor, for example. And now they find themselves “at the head of governments with highly uneven footing” – Sunak was not popularly elected, while Macron doesn’t have a majority in parliament – facing crises that will severely test their “faith in the free market”.