Starmer would work with the French far-right as 'that's what serious government is'

Sir Keir Starmer said he would be willing to work with Marine Le Pen's far-right party if it wins the French election, saying "that's what serious government is about".

The National Rally (NR) has secured the biggest vote share in the first round of France's parliamentary elections.

It puts an absolute majority in reach for the anti-immigration party, something which would then force French President Emmanuel Macron into appointing the first democratically elected far-right government in the country's modern history.

Sir Keir has said if that happens it would be "a lesson" for progressives, who need to respond better to disaffected voters.

Asked whether he would be willing to work with the NR if he wins the UK election on Thursday, he said: "I will work with any government in Europe and across the world if we are elected in to serve the country. For me, that's what serious government is about."

Sir Keir went on to say a victory for France's National Rally would not damage Labour's goal of negotiating a "better deal" with the European Union.

'Bilaterals can be stronger and better'

Pressed on Ms Le Pen's preference for bilateral deals over EU-wide ones, Sir Keir said: "I've always supported bilaterals as well as EU-wide agreements. They're not mutually exclusive."

He said some agreements we have with France "are bilateral in any event" and they could be "stronger and better" - particularly when it comes to dealing with smuggling gangs sending people across the Channel.

Asked whether he was concerned a Eurosceptic French government could make his aim of closer economic ties more difficult to achieve, he added: "I genuinely don't want to get ahead of myself. Firstly, we haven't seen the final outcome in France. We've also got a big outcome of our own on Thursday.

"I don't think it affects the overall intention we have, which is to negotiate a better deal with the EU.

"I think the deal we've got is botched. I think that anybody who's trading with the EU feels that it's botched, and we can do better than that across not just trade, but actually research and development, also on the security front."

Macron miscalculation

France has a semi-presidential system and these elections are for the 577 seats in the National Assembly.

The two-round vote means the final result may not be totally clear until next week, but if the NR comes out on top again it would compel Mr Macron to make Ms Le Pen's 28-year-old protege and party leader Jordan Bardella prime minister.

The French president and prime minister have been from different political parties only three times in its history.

Mr Macron, who was elected in a separate presidential vote, called the parliamentary election early after his Renaissance party was decimated by Ms Le Pen's one in the European elections.

The logic to his gamble was that the nation would come to its senses and turn its back on radical politics of the hard right - which is enjoying a resurgence across Europe.

Earlier on Monday, Sir Keir warned that a failure to address the disillusionment with British politics could result in that happening here.

'Only progressives have the answers'

In terms of lessons he drew from the rise of nationalism or populism, the Labour leader said it was "that we need to address the everyday concerns of so many people in this country who feel disaffected by politics".

"We have to take that head on and we have to show both Thursday in the United Kingdom and across Europe and the world that only progressives have the answers to the challenges that are facing us in this country and across Europe.

"We have to make that progressive cause but we have to, in making that, understand why it is, certainly in the United Kingdom after 14 years of chaos and failure, that people do feel disaffected with politics - return politics to service and continue to make that argument that politics is a force for good."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was "focused on this election" when asked about his reaction to the National Rally's strong showing, and highlighted the government's work on tackling illegal migration.