In a few hours France will know who has won the presidential election. Macron, predict the polls – though Marine Le Pen’s National Rally remain convinced that the ‘voice of the street’ will sweep them to power.
The truth, however, is that there will be no winner from this election. Macron told Le Pen during Wednesday’s live television debate that her wish to ban the headscarf would precipitate a ‘civil war’, but France is already at war with itself. Macron vs Le Pen is how it has manifested itself this month but the battle lines were first drawn a decade or more ago as the effects of globalisation began to bite in what is called la France Périphérique.
These are the people who overwhelmingly vote for Le Pen, the men and women who live outside the cities and work in poorly paid jobs. In the first round of voting, 37 per cent of those categorised as défavorisé (disadvantaged) voted for Le Pen and 13 for Macron, while for the ‘privileged’ demographic it was 8 and 53 per cent respectively.
France Périphérique feels neglected by Paris and belittled by a media and cultural elite which makes little attempt to conceal their disdain.
In hindsight the death of their idol Johnny Hallyday in December 2017 was poignantly symbolic. He was one of them, his songs resonated with them like no other singer, and when he died they came to Paris in their thousands. Macron was there to say ‘adieu’, an incongruous sight because France knew that Johnny was a working class hero. But as Le Figaro remarked the president made an appearance to ‘reconcile himself with the low-brow France’.
But he didn’t. Less than a year later his government spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, lit the fuse for the Yellow Vest movement by describing