Meeting a populist for lunch at a restaurant called Elite sounds like the first line of a joke. If so, then the punchline arrives with exquisite timing, walking into the Helsinki establishment bang on midday clad in suit, slightly loosened tie, braces and a Millwall scarf.

“No one likes us, we don’t care,” goes the decades-old chant at the gritty south-east London football club, and you can imagine my guest Timo Soini joining in. It is the early days of coronavirus in Finland, with just 40 confirmed cases as I land in a March downpour in Helsinki. “We are men: we still shake hands,” he says. I had mentally prepared for no handshakes on the trip but find myself joining in wholeheartedly.

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