Jonathan Miller

Why has London’s Royal Institution cancelled Eric Zemmour?

Why has London's Royal Institution cancelled Eric Zemmour?
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On Friday night, the insurgent but still undeclared French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour was to address 600 of his supporters, the merely curious, and the media, in a ‘rendezvous’ at the Royal Institution in Mayfair. No prizes for guessing that the RI, a quintessential institution of the enlightenment prizing reason and inquiry above all, has now terminated the booking after performing ‘due diligence’ and discovering that the rightist Zemmour is not their sort.

A spokesman for the RI declined to explain the reason why the London Friends of Zemmour were suddenly considered unsuitable to rent its magnificent theatre on Albemarle Street. Or why Zemmour himself might be unsuitable to speak there. It declined to say by whom it may have been contacted before taking its decision.

Many famous and even notorious French writers and statesmen have sought refuge in England over the years. It’s the proud boast of the English to have hosted generations of exiles and dissidents from Voltaire to Zola, Napoleon III to De Gaulle. That was then. Zemmour appears to offend the tender sensibilities of today.

Perhaps Zemmour’s friends can organise an alternative venue for hundreds of people in 48 hours. Perhaps not. But it’s a shame Zemmour might not get a chance to present himself in London, where he’d been expected to speak about Anglo-French relations, Brexit and the situation on the Belarus-Polish border.

I hear through a paper cup through a very long piece of string that on orders from Number 10, Conservative MPs have been banned from meeting Zemmour in London this week, for the absurd reason that this is a sensitive time in Anglo-French relations. As if Anglo-French relations have not been sensitive for 1,000 years. 

Michael Gove was said to be interested in meeting Zemmour. I’m guessing that won’t happen. It seems like a missed opportunity. Zemmour has at least a theoretical chance of being the next president of France. Is it smart that London should snub him? A cheeky Boris would be rattling Macron’s cage, inviting Zemmour to Downing Street for a cup of tea and a photo opp.

Zemmour will go ahead with private dinners in London as he raises money in advance of a possible declaration of his candidacy on 5 December at the gigantic Zenith concert hall in Paris. Where he’s not been cancelled. He has been speaking right across France recently without being cancelled. That he’s been shut down in London is pathetic.

To be honest I was not surprised to hear that Zemmour had been blacklisted (if you’re allowed to say that). For all its grandeur, the Royal Institution is evidently thoroughly woke, and only took the booking in the first place because it was too dim to refuse the money. It’s also been fairly broke, one reads. 

François Fillon, the French presidential centre-right candidate five years ago until he was written out of the script by a corruption investigation, spoke at the Royal Institution, so presumably it’s not French politicians generally who are unacceptable. As they say in France: ‘C’est comme ça.’ There have supposedly been 25,000 lectures at the Royal Institution but in our age of Cancellation, Eric Zemmour’s will not be amongst them.

Written byJonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller is the author of France, a Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Gibson Square). Twitter: @lefoudubaron

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