Éric Zemmour looks down at a copy of The Spectator and cocks his eyebrows at the unflattering cartoon of him on the cover. He decides he doesn’t care. ‘It takes a lot to offend me, you know,’ he says. He then leafs through the magazine making polite and appreciative noises. ‘Ah, Doooglas Murray!’ he exclaims. ‘I like Doooglas Murray very much. We’ve exchanged ideas.’
Zemmour is in London as part of his still undeclared campaign to be the next president of France — to curry favour with and raise money from the many French voters who live in the capital. But the British Establishment has given him a cold reception. Mayor Sadiq Khan said he wasn’t welcome. The Royal Institution cancelled his event. The government ordered Conservatives to call off meetings with him. That could be because Boris Johnson hopes to repair badly damaged relations with Emmanuel Macron, the man Zemmour wants to eject from the Élysée Palace. Or it could just be that Mr Z is considered so right wing as to be toxic.
Team Zemmour argue that the Tories have missed a trick. A President Zemmour would be far less antagonistic to Brexit Britain than President Macron. Zemmour is officially against ‘Frexit’, yet he is complimentary, even a touch romantic about Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. ‘The conservative elites, at least some of them, are proud to have respected the choice of the British people, unlike the French political elites,’ he says, speaking in French because his English is limited. He compares Brexit with France’s referendum in 2005, when the French said ‘non’ to the European Constitution, only to be ignored. ‘That was disgraceful. I find the behaviour of the British elites much more noble.’
He argues that Emmanuel Macron and the ‘Brussels technocracy’ have made a ‘fundamental mistake’ in their eagerness to make Britain pay for betraying Europe.