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Hollande meets the French in London
Only two months after his election, François Hollande visited London and started his day with a ‘meet and greet’ session for the French community in the UK and Ireland at the French ambassador’s residence.
A mixed group of people, with representatives from business, the arts and education, listened attentively to the newly-elected president. Accompanied by a small entourage (for efficiency purposes, not as a result of budget cuts as the president explained) but without Valérie Trierweiler, Mr Hollande mixed serious messages with a degree of humour, not least in relation to the rainy London weather, which may have been partly responsible for dampening the enthusiasm of some of his audience. Or perhaps that was due to reminders of the intention to look to higher taxes as a key element in his deficit reduction plans. His speech picked up many of the key themes of his election campaign in this respect and certainly left the wealthier attendees nervously checking the contents of their wallets.
He then turned to praise many of the areas of Franco-British co-operation, in energy, in defence, in business and in culture & the arts, also indicating, perhaps optimistically, that both governments had more views in common than differences of opinion in respect of the future of Europe.
Praising the contribution of the French community in London to all these areas of co-operation and inter-reaction he also reiterated the government’s commitment to supporting French education here in the capital, although he did confirm an end to free education for children in their last 3 years at the lycee. The number of grants (bourses) , however, will be increased to compensate , although details have yet to be announced.
Before departing to fulfil his very heavy schedule, the president circulated freely amongst attendees and chatted openly to those present.