I wrote with unfeigned pessimism in an earlier post of fears that Marine Le Pen and her National Front would sweep into power in France. I assumed at the time that Francois Hollande would arrogantly hang on (despite his 4% satisfaction rating) and face her at the final ballot, but he bit the bullet early, opened the field, and paved the way for a savage clearing of the political decks. Continuing this vaguely nautical metaphor, they’ve shoved Cpt Edward J. Smith out of a porthole and appointed Jim Moody, Petty Officer, to stand watch on the bridge and steer us clear of the icebergs. But Jim Moody was on the bridge, wasn’t he, when the Titanic sank? Oops…
One could argue (and one does) that sanity has prevailed and the politics of hate failed in both la France profonde and the cities. Chiefly, the result rebuffs the alt-right trend which now, with the Trump-slump showing its drab colours, may have lost its worldwide steamroller-like impetus. You might argue this, swept up in the euphoria of the French result, but what’s the real message for liberals in an election where 11 million people voted for an ultra-right loon, 12 million abstained from voting altogether, and more than 4 million defaced their ballot papers? If that (27 million) wasn’t a protest vote against the status-quo of progressive-vs-conservative, then I don’t know what it is. This so-called win delivers a ‘centrist’ as the 8th President of the Fifth Republic, without a left-wing politician left standing. What is this brave new world we’ve created? And why so serious, Emmanuel? What’s in those emails?
Had the ultra-right loon I referred to above also tapped into the youth-power element so evident in Macron’s win, I wonder if the result might not have been closer. Certainly it wouldn’t have lost the National Front any votes. But maybe it’s too early to play your trump card just yet. Marine Le Pen says she’ll continue to lead the party, which is now legitimised as the ‘opposition’ in French politics, but will she lead it to another election? I doubted it then, and doubt it now. She may, however, go down in the annals of Wikipedia as the harbinger of extraordinary change.
Most worrying for me is that the far-right will draw oxygen from this. They are now no longer just the angry knee-jerk of the disaffected masses; they are the barbarians at the gate, normalised. Marine Le Pen will ride Macron like a bitch as he grapples (with youthful zeal, no doubt) the same issues that toppled the previous government: the threat of terrorism (230 killed), mass unemployment (9.6%), and a stagnant economy. Macron is going to take a savage beating, and when he staggers gaunt and grey-headed to the next election, there’s little doubt who will be his fresh-faced opponent.