Gavin Mortimer

France’s horror at the prospect of prime minister Boris

France’s horror at the prospect of prime minister Boris
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Should Boris Johnson become Prime Minister it would be a calamity for his country and for Europe. That's the view of Le Monde, a newspaper that declares it's time for France and the rest of the continent to stop 'regarding him as a buffoon'.

In an editorial headlined ‘Boris Johnson at the head of the UK? No thanks!’, the left-wing paper said that Britain's answer to Donald Trump is a danger to European stability, although clearly not as much as the Brexit Party. Since the party's formation earlier this year, Le Monde routinely describes them as ‘extreme-right’, which must come as something of a shock to Claire Fox and millions of other British lefties and their old-fashioned belief in democracy.

If there's any buffoonery in Europe, it's surely to be found in the editorial office of Le Monde which in recent years has followed a similar ideological intolerant trajectory to the Guardian and New York Times. This is the paper that, when it wants the British view on Brexit, turns to that paragon of probity, Denis MacShane, described in his byline as a former Labour MP and minister of State for Europe. Perhaps it didn't have enough space to include his six months in prison for false accounting.

The challenge for Le Monde, like the majority of the tiresomely conformist French media, is to broaden its mind in an attempt to understand why the Brexit Party rose from nowhere, and why Johnson is the Tory grassroots' favourite. That the paper hasn't managed to accomplish that relatively simple feat is no surprise.

Back in 2005, a few weeks after the French people voted to reject the proposed EU Constitution, Le Monde blamed the result on the 'Non' campaign's more adept use of the internet. I suppose we should be thankful that the paper didn't also whine about interference from those dastardly Russians, but it was a foretaste of the denial that was to be deployed a decade later when Brexit and Trump came to pass. Of course, it didn't occur to Le Monde that the 55 per cent of French people who rejected the Treaty might actually have studied the two sides of the argument and reached a reasoned conclusion. Mais non!

The other left-wing newspaper in France, Liberation, describes the Brexit Party as 'Europhobes', less offensive than 'extreme-right' but still a wilful misinterpretation of the movement.

As for Johnson, Liberation says he is attractive to Tory grassroots because of his engaging manner and 'warlike rhetoric on the past glory of the British Empire.' The grassroots, for their part, are ‘mostly, male, white and over 60’.

Incidentally, Denis MacShane has also written columns for Liberation. In his most recent column, written on May 10, MacShane declared that the majority of British citizens' no longer wished for Brexit.

The centre-right Le Figaro devoted a full page to Boris Johnson on Saturday, describing him as ‘the big favourite’ to replace Theresa May. The paper added that he was working hard to ‘overturn a persistent reputation as a charlatan’ and in their view, his endeavours appeared to be succeeding. Le Figaro also ran a brief eye over the other contenders in the leadership race, describing Michael Gove as ‘the king of the about-turn’ and comparing Jeremy Hunt's image to that of ‘the outgoing Prime Minister’.

A Johnson victory in the leadership contest would certainly give the French press plenty to write about, and who knows, some of it might actually be considered.