Nick Hilton

The Spectator podcast: Le Pen’s victory

The Spectator podcast: Le Pen's victory
Text settings

On this week’s podcast, we discuss the rise of Marine Le Pen, how murder is handled on social media, and how a cake has changed the debate about gay rights.

Marine Le Pen’s Front National has surged in the polls and it now looks likely that she will make the run-off in 2017 French presidential election. In this week’s cover feature, Jonathan Fenby looks at how Le Pen has changed the French Right, and considers the prospects of her rivals Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy.

On the podcast, Agnes Poirier tells us that:

"Her great success is that she's not her father. Here's a woman who was born in 1968, she's twice divorced, she's a single mother, she's pro-gay rights, she's distanced herself from the ultra-Catholics. She cuts a completely different figure from her father – she's also not interested in the Second World War and collaborationists! So she doesn't come with much baggage, apart from, obviously, the family history."

Gavin Mortimer, meanwhile, dismisses incumbent Francois Hollande's chances of claiming another term, saying:

"Le Monde yesterday gave his latest approval rating as 4pc. The rest of the Left? They're too divided. You've got Jean-Luc Mélenchon from the far left, he'll be standing. You've got, obviously, Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister, and you've got Emmanuel Macron, who's the young, late-30s, who's been called 'the spiritual son of Thatcher' recently. He's someone who was brought in by Hollande as an economic advisor about three years ago, but left earlier this year when he fell out with Hollande. So they're very divided the Left."

Six months ago, Andrew Watts’ university friend was murdered at his home in Oxford. Both his friend’s death and the recent conviction of his killer were revealed to Andrew via social media, as strangers joked about the tragedy. In this week’s magazine, Andrew writes about his anger at this response and how the benevolence extended to figures on the left, such as Jo Cox, hasn’t been extended to a man who was murdered for being a Tory. He tells the podcast:

"I don't want to go into the details of the murder too much at all or to talk about him. He was an old friend from university and we had lost touch a bit but we still met up regularly, and he was killed. And I think the thing that really shocked me, and was the cause of the article, was that I found out all the details from someone posting a joke on Twitter."

And finally, Ashers bakery in Belfast could hardly have expected to find themselves at the centre of a 2016 political storm, but this week they lost their appeal over a landmark discrimination case. The bakers had refused to produce a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ and consequently fell foul of the equal rights lobby. In a blog this week Melanie McDonagh wrote that:

"He had the right to cake, certainly. To a nice cake, a good cake. But to gay marriage propaganda in icing? That is another matter. Having your cake and eating it is one thing; how it is decorated can be a matter of conscience."

She is joined on the podcast by Peter Tatchell who changed his mind on the issue, saying:

"What prompted my change in the end was that I thought, on balance, Ashers were not discriminating against Gareth Lee because he was gay, it was simply the message on the cake which they disagreed with. Although I think it is a complex, grey, ambiguous issue, I think, on balance, I decided to err on the side of freedom of expression, conscience and religion."

This podcast is sponsored by Berry Bros. & Rudd, who have long supplied wine for The Spectator. If you’ve always wanted to start a wine cellar, 2016 could be the perfect time. Whether you are looking to buy for future drinking, for investment or a little of both, Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Cellar Plan is designed to suit all tastes and budgets. A personal Account Manager will be on hand to offer advice and assistance, and enable you to benefit from three centuries’ worth of relationships with the leading wine growers. To find out more about starting a wine cellar with Berry Bros. & Rudd, visit