The National Front were out in force at my local Parisian market on Saturday. A coterie of volunteers handing out leaflets with suitably festive bonhomie. I took one from a smiling middle-aged woman. It was titled ‘Au Nom Du Peuple’ and there was a photograph of the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, looking pensive. She’s dropped the surname for her election campaign. It’s deemed too toxic, what with her reptilian father’s reputation for playing down the holocaust and playing up the sins of homosexuality.
There’s a message from Marine at the top of the page, an extract from a speech she gave in September this year. ‘Nobody should ignore that this presidential election is about an inescapable choice,’ she said during an address at Frejus on the Côte d’Azur. ‘Either a France with her sovereignty, her identity, her values, her prosperity, or a country that we no longer recognise, in which we will become strangers.’
Beneath the quotation Le Pen expands on her major campaign issues. The European Union is firmly in her sights, with her reiteration to put France’s membership to the vote if elected, and she also vows to ‘break with mass immigration’. There’s mention of ‘reconquering’ urban no-go zones, lowering taxes and what she calls ‘economic patriotism’.
One of the most eye-catching pledges is near the foot of the page. If elected president, Le Pen promises to ‘defend the rights of women, their freedoms and their dignity, put in danger by fundamental Islam.’
It’s a clever strategy. On a train back to Paris recently from eastern France I fell into conversation with the woman sitting to me, a chic, forty-something, who was head of human resources for a large company in the French capital. Having a broad English accent in France has some advantages, one of which is a lowering of the Gallic guard, leading people to reveals secrets that they might not tell one of their own for fear of being judged.