Polls show Emmanuel Macron winning the French presidency easily on May 7. But he has no established political base. This might give Marine Le Pen a chance, however slim it seems. It is at least possible that some of Francois Fillon’s more nationalistic supporters and those supporting the assorted socialist and left candidates will leak to her in sufficient numbers. Standing aside from the National Front, as she has done, might also help.
Monsieur Macron wouldn’t be in the running at all if the Republican candidate Fillon had not queered his chances by putting his wife and children on the public payroll. It would have been Monsieur Fillon versus Mme Le Pen. She would have certainly lost.
Most (not all, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan has agreed to be her prime minister) of the nine defeated in the first round of the French presidential election have since ganged up on Le Pen. Sexists! They’re all men. Presumably Ms Gillard and Mrs Clinton are appalled.
‘Anyone but her’ is the mantra. I am reminded of the opposition to Donald Trump among some conservative Republicans. Somehow they kidded themselves that opposing Trump was not the same as supporting Clinton and, perforce, being complicit in creating an activist Supreme Court and an irretrievably damaged America. It was pitiable display from conservatives willing to send their country to hell to preserve their own moral vanity.
Something of the same is going on in France. ‘Never-Le Pen’ has gripped the political elite. Are there enough French deplorables to swing it for Le Pen? Or is France eager for a nondescript Europhile who believes in open borders; a so-called centrist whose pedigree includes membership of the Socialist Party and who, most recently, was an appointed (unelected) minister in Hollande’s dismal Socialist administration?
You would think that French deplorables would want to put France first. You would think that they might want to try something new. Things are not exactly going well.
Unemployment in France is 10 per cent. Youth unemployment is over 23%. The ratio of government debt to GDP is running at 96% and the budget is in deficit by about 3.5%. Economic growth is anaemic at about 1%. The deficit on international trade is wide. All is not well on the economic front.
Then there is the Muslim front.
It is estimated that Muslims make up 10% of the population; though there are no official figures because France does not allow the collection of census data on race or religion. What is clear is that some major population centers have been inundated to a much greater extent than the country as a whole. I have seen figures for Marseille, for example, which puts the Muslim population there at between 30% and 40%. No-go areas mar the urban landscape.
Then there is Islamic terrorism.
There have been twenty-two terrorist attacks in France since the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January, 2015. These include the orchestrated shooting and grenade attacks in Paris of November, 2015, which killed 130 people and injured hundreds more; the lorry attack in Nice in July, 2016, which killed 86 and injured hundreds more; and the 86-year-old priest who had his throat slit in his church later that same month. In case you think Muslim terrorists respect election campaigns they don’t.
Shooting and stabbings have continued into 2017. In the latest, a police officer was shot dead and three others injured in Paris on April 20. And an attempted stabbing of police officers was foiled on April 22.
You have to think the times are ripe for Le Pen. Shock horror among the chattering classes, she’s “far right.” This is tripe. I am not too sure what “far right” looks like exactly. But, I know that it doesn’t look like Le Pen.
Her policy manifesto contains 144 commitments. I have read them. A lot are so French and to do with ‘housekeeping’ matters that it is impossible for an outsider to make a judgment, except to say none smacks of fascism — if that is what is meant by “far right.” She isn’t far right. She is a patriot and nationalist; which is apparently what the left, the BBC and the ABC call far right.
Here are some of her major commitments.
- Recruit more police officers
- Automatically expel foreign criminals
- Restore national borders and leave the Schengen area
- Hold a referendum on membership of the EU
- Reduce legal immigration to an annual 10,000
- Ban and dissolve organisations tied to Islamic fundamentalism
- Close all extremist mosques
- Introduce “intelligent protectionist measures” to support French businesses facing unfair competition
- Refuse to enter into free trade agreements
- Restore the national currency
- Alter the Constitution to defend and promote France’s historical and cultural heritage
- Leave that part of NATO which might drag France into foreign wars
- Build up France’s autonomous defence capability, including by increasing defence expenditure to 3% of GDP within five years
I have no moral quarrel with her commitments; neither those above nor any of the others. Sure I might not agree with all of them, but on the level of policy not on what is morally right or wrong. For example, alongside promoting nuclear energy, she wants to ban fracking. And clearly she is no free-market advocate. But she is a free-speech advocate, committing to add “freedom of speech and digital freedom” to the Constitution. A strange commitment, you might think, for someone of the far right.
As a Deplorable, I would vote for her if I were French. Restoring the Franc (thereby making French industry more competitive), cutting immigration, controlling the borders, and cracking down on Muslim fundamentalism and extremism would do it for me.
The alternative is more of the same and that is surely the road to perdition. At least Le Pen offers hope for France; as Trump offered and, so far, is delivering splendidly for America. Hopefully a sufficient number of French voters see it that way.