The It crowd

It may seem an unlikely comparison, but David Cameron and Ségolène Royal have more in common than you'd think.

You wouldn't think a French Socialist and a British Conservative could have much in common, but you'd be wrong. Take Lionel Jospin and Michael Howard, for instance. No self-respecting paparazzi photographer would have wasted two minutes on snapping them in their respective swimwear, yet Ségolène Royal and David Cameron were submitted to the full gaze of the tabloid lens. Why? For one reason only. They've both got It - It being that indefinable star quality that touches those who are destined for stardom. Sometimes you can acquire It (Margaret Thatcher did) but more often than not you've either got It or you haven't.

Ségolène Royal is everything that Socialist leaders traditionally never have been: female, Blairite and stunning. Cameron is everything Tory leaders traditionally are not - young, with a full head of hair and ideologically neutral. Just as Royal is willing to ditch the hard core leftwing policies that led to Jospin's humiliation last time, Cameron is losing no time in dropping the Thatcherite inheritance that he believes has bedevilled his party for 15 years. All that is needed is for Samantha Cameron to enter politics and the comparison will be complete. Unbelievably, Royal's partner, François Hollande, with whom she has had four children, is seen as her main rival for the Socialist party's presidential nomination.

Both Cameron and Royal are seen by many in their respective parties as seeking to emulate Tony Blair, both in style and substance. Both deny it, yet it's easy to see why the accusation can be made. Royal knows that with its current policy platform her party is unelectable. She has seen what Tony Blair had to do to make the Labour party capable of winning an election and she is determined to drag the French Socialists kicking and screaming into the 21st century. And Cameron? He believes parts of his party have barely made it into the 20th century and is determined to exploit his undoubted mandate from those very same people to modernise, modernise, modernise.

Interestingly, Lionel Jospin is deploying exactly the same tactics to criticise Ségolène Royal as David Davis did to trash David Cameron. Davis criticised Cameron for his aspirations to be the "heir to Blair", while Jospin had a go at Royal's use of the media and her blog to go over the heads of Socialist party leaders to reach party members directly. He says: "Informal links do not provide content. Technique does not replace politics. There has to be ideas, convictions and the issues have to be explained."

The subliminal message was that the slip of a girl hasn't really got the faintest idea and these things should be left to those who know about them - that is, a group of 60-year-old men who have done so disastrously in the past. And by transmitting this message, Jospin is playing into Royal's hands in exactly the same way that their British equivalents are doing David Cameron's dirty work for him.

Both Royal and Cameron must be laughing themselves silly.