Following the first round of Presidential Elections in France, the world has been bowled over by the once called ‘cowardly’ and ‘inefficent’ people that apparently live there. But stereotypers and column cartoonists might have to put their pencils on hold for what looks like a seismic shift in the way the Frenchies do things: they’re doing it British style.
By far the most extraordinary thing for most in this election is the rise of the third place far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, a curvaceous blonde bombshell who, considering her National Front’s previous fascist personality, has done well in crafting a modern identity for a political movement that epitomises the growing angst amongst the French electorate. Walking clear from a crossfire that’s already claimed the economic lives of Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland, the French emerge only to see their next door neighbour, Germany, a dustpan and brush in one hand, and a cheque in the other, clearing up a slaughter that at one time threatened to engulf the entire continent. Surprisingly enough, they don’t feel too strongly about following suit, on either side.
Marine Le Pen embodies this Euro-backlash, and a way of thinking that once championed French leadership on the continent is now waiting for the first bus out of town. It’s an alien concept to most Britons, who were never bowled away by the idea of a partnership with European Nations – but who ironically have relished its benefits the most enthusiastically, namely the holidays. “The European countries which did not enter the euro display higher performances than countries in the eurozone for ten years” she says, quoting Eurostat data, “The United Kingdom is not in the eurozone and does not have the least desire to be in it. UK does not tolerate this kind of taking away of its freedom.” Le Pen envisages a France where they can set their own interest rates, have their own currency, control immigration (as opposed to the free movement Schengen-Area) and limit its imports – it’s Nationalism, the kind that tells you it’s ‘for France’ followed by a murmured ‘…just only the white ones’.
Because the fact is, Le Pen’s national front is a lot like the BNP (coincidentally also once called The National Front). It screams national sovereignty as its pillar, despises immigration, supranational organisations, interventionism and is a tad nostalgic – not to mention the small problem of a membership that pans the width of a prison cell. Anyone from closet racists, islamophobics to outright fascists have set their sights on Le Pen as the future of France, and although the party’s mantra isn’t evil in its entirety, France risks political radicalism if incumbent centre-right Sarkozy can’t emulate similar policies to quell his people’s dissatisfaction. Sarkozy and socialist Hollande know the political prize is the votes of the far-right, something that could easily deal the deadly blow to their presidential rival. The question is, who’s willing to appease the most?
UK political extremism is pathetic in comparison. The BNP has more or less flatlined since it first took the national stage, commanding only 1.9% of the 2010 general election ballot, whereas Le Pen has managed a seismic 18.1% – just 9% below the President’s UPM Party. It’s not particularly a good thing by any measure when the far-right emerges so triumphantly as it has in France, but at least we showed them just how bigoted you really can be.