There is today only one united French political party, and it is the National Front. The FN has been profiting from a split French right, a hopeless French left and from the general disenchantment with the political class. It is tempting then to compare, as Agnes Poirier did in the Times, the FN’s recent success with that of Ukip in Britain. Tempting, but wrong.
The National Front is 30 years older than Ukip, and a very different beast. It supports protectionist policies, while Ukip promotes a more libertarian and democratic approach. The FN’s ‘progressive tax’ – a rising income tax – clearly contrasts with the flat tax advocated by Ukip.
Some would argue that both parties are truly eurosceptical, and their attitudes to national sovereignty are rather similar. Both are non-interventionist over Syria, for instance. Yet, au fond, their approaches to foreign affairs differ quite drastically. Marine Le Pen calls for the formation of a pan-European union and a tripartite Paris-Berlin-Moscow alliance. I can’t quite picture Nigel Farage making the same appeal.
Ukip and FN are not six of one, half a dozen of the other. They each follow a distinct political ethos. Whereas Nigel Farage is happy to propose an alliance with Conservative Party, the FN is utterly antithetical to the centre-right UMP. The scary thing, at least as far as the French political elite is concerned, is that on current polling Marine Le Pen has no need to make any compromises.