Hamlet cursed his luck that the ‘time was out of joint’ and he had been sent to set it right. So this week’s column touches on politics.

If the polls are right – and they almost certainly are – by the time you read this the UK will be preparing for a Labour government – the first since the Blair/Brown era that began in 1997.

Sir Keir Starmer would become only the seventh ever Labour prime minister, well placed with a big majority and his opposition in chaos to serve two terms in the job.

The big word of the election for Labour has been ‘change’ and, in a European and global context, change is on the cards in France.

The former National Front party of Marine Le Pen, now renamed National Rally, is in touching distance of power. That will be decided by a second-round election this weekend after Le Pen triumphed last Sunday.

Only a forced relationship between Macron’s centre party and the left can prevent this happening.

This would be an unsustainable alliance and blocking the National Rally could create civil unrest in France because democracy has been thwarted.

Macron’s decision – dubbed ‘doing a Cameron’ because of his calling of the Brexit vote – was a massive gamble that has gone wrong. He is in danger of serving out his term as president at political odds with the parliament and prime minister, while Le Pen prepares to take his job as president in 2027.

Regardless of what comes out of Sunday’s election in France the far right is on the march, fuelled by familiar concerns around the economy, jobs and most of all immigration. The party is also Eurosceptic and against most of the policies the EU pursues.

This means three of the founding member states of the original EEC could soon have governments with far-right credentials. The Netherlands and Italy already have these parties in power and it is only a matter of time until it happens in France.

That will have a dramatic impact on the EU as France and Germany would no longer be able to be the driving engines of Europe – the pressure to pursue a France-first agricultural policy would be massive. The EU faces spending the next few years fighting internal battles rather than its ideals for a greener, more diverse Europe.

If there were ever a need for a steady hand in the EU now may be the time and that could help the current Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, in her campaign to be reappointed to the job.

She needs a majority in a vote in the European Parliament later this month and while her party – the European People’s party – has the majority, she needs support from others to ensure victory.

If she is re-elected that would be a good outcome for European agriculture. She has been in the political vanguard of driving the EU to respond to farm protests by simplifying the CAP and making all its rules more farmer-friendly.

She has also been fulsome in her praise of farmers for delivering for European consumers and fully accepts the importance of food security.

Her reappointment would please the farm lobby organisation, COPA, which has a good working relationship with Von der Leyen.

Away from the heady world of politics are the bread-and-butter issues. New figures from the European Commission’s statistical agency, Eurostat, confirm agricultural output prices fell in the first quarter of 2024.

This is no surprise and the drop was 6% against the same time in 2023. The good news, however, was that fall in input costs was 11% which means some easing of margin pressure on farmers.

Input costs are still high in relation to farm gate prices, but the figures have allowed Eurostat to claim things are getting better. Its official line is that prices and input costs are now heading in the ‘direction of calmer pre-disruption levels. That underlines how globally disruptive for food and agriculture the Russian invasion of Ukraine was, driving first input costs linked to energy and then dragging up food prices to unsustainable levels.

As to prices in the first quarter the biggest falls were for cereals, dairy and eggs while potato prices rose. On the input side, fertilisers and fuel drove the across the board fall. A welcome easing of pressure, for which no politician can take credit.