Strange times in French politics

With youth unemployment running at 24 per cent, it is unsurprising that people are being attracted to fringe ideologies which offer simplistic solutions.

With youth unemployment running at 24 per cent, it is unsurprising that people are being attracted to fringe ideologies which offer simplistic solutions

Fascism arrives as your friend,” suggested the children’s author Michael Rosen.

“It will restore your honour, make you feel proud, protect your house, give you a job, clean up the neighbourhood, remind you of how great you once were, clear out the venal and the corrupt, remove anything you feel is unlike you…”

All this sounds attractive right now for the French, who are mired in a political and economic crisis. The Front National sits near the top of the polls, and the prospect of an extreme-right president in France is seriously being discussed.

A recent edition of L’Express was entitled “President in 2017? Why the worst is possible”, over a picture of a stern Marine Le Pen. The governing Socialist Party is deeply unpopular and the opposition right wing UMP divided.

But the reason for the success of the FN goes deeper than the current mainstream political malaise.

France is notoriously pessimistic about the effects of globalisation. An Ipsos-Mori study this year found that only seven per cent of French people think their youth will have a better life than their parent’s generation, the lowest score in the 20 countries studied.

Youth unemployment is running at 24 per cent, and it is unsurprising given this economic backdrop that people are being attracted to fringe ideologies which offer simplistic solutions. A poll last August showed that 27 per cent of French youth between 18 and 24 had a positive attitude towards ISIS, compared to four per cent and three per cent in the UK and Germany respectively.

Another big news story in France for the past few months has been an environmental movement called the zadistes, which has set up camp in a rural area of the south west to prevent the construction of the Sivens Dam, a project to help local farmers.

These environmentalists live in an alternative community where they live as a collective adopting fake names, giving strict rules to the media and thinking of themselves as outside of ‘the system’. After one of them was killed in a confrontation with police, there have been angry protests in towns and cities denouncing the dam and police violence.

The Front National offers a rejection of the mainstream at the polls, giving people a chance to vote against the ‘UMPS’ (an amalgamation of the abbreviations of the two main parties). The FN proposes an insular France. It is anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-Americanisation.

It warns of the ‘Islamification’ of France. The FN has cultivated links with Putin’s regime, culminating in a recent loan, as the party claims French banks will not provide help.

Despite continued stigma of the FN, the fundamental and worrying shift is that Marine Le Pen appears not to suffer from the same toxicity as her father and former president of the party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, did.

Marine is a skilled media performer, and her projected image as an outsider to the media and political elite is a strength in this post-crash age. Yet in one year she has appeared on television and radio morning programmes more than any other politician.

The French presidential election is split into two rounds, with the top two from the first round going into the second round. Even though the election is two and a half years away, pessimistic commentators predict Le Pen will make the second round, probably at the expense of the left.

This is what her father achieved in 2002. But in the second round, where he faced Jacques Chirac, he lost with about a quarter of the number of votes Chirac received. Such was the revulsion at the prospect of Le Pen as president that even those on the left who disliked Chirac held their nose and voted for him.

The worry is that 15 years on, in the 2017 election, French voters might not see his daughter as any worse than the rest of the unpopular ruling class. If she faces a divisive right-wing politician (or the left) in the second round it is thought she could well win.

As such, there have even been calls on the left to vote for Alain Juppé, a veteran right-wing politician. This is in spite of the fact that he was once convicted of mishandling money and became the most unpopular prime minister ever in the nineties.

His ideology is hardly very different to Sarkozy’s but his style is more appeasing, and those on the left who are resigned to defeat think he is their best chance of avoiding a nightmare Sarko-Le Pen runoff.

Jasper Cox is a student at Durham University. You can read his blog here

24 Responses to “Strange times in French politics”

  1. swat

    My, she does get around! Rather lilke Nigel Farage, because he’s the only literate member of UKIP. And she is a woman; and blonde; and has a simple message that Stop immigration and and everything will be all right. Rather like our own Nige.
    There should be no tactical voting in the Presidential run-offs. If people are thick enough to vote FOR facists then let them suffer the consequences. Socialialist should NOT vote for that crook Sarko or any other Gaullist. We can rule out any Socialist getting to the final round. Hollande has damaged the socialist brand for another decade.

  2. Mike B

    “If people are thick enough to vote FOR fascists then let them suffer the consequences.”

    Of course it will not only be them who do suffer. Whole sections of the French population would be marginalised and scape goated. How long would it be before others including here in Britain would use the FN as a model. The Daily Mail has already made consilitory noises about them.

  3. madasafish

    ” If people are thick enough to vote FOR facists then let them suffer the consequences”

    Only if they get what they voted for,

    Hollande promised lower unemployment and more growth: instead he delivered higher unemployment and lower growth.

    You just can’t trust politicians to deliver what they promised..(Anyone who does is dumb, stupid and belives in faeries as there is evident proof over decades most of them lie.. repeatedly..

  4. subtleknife666

    “only seven per cent of French people think their youth will have a better life than their parent’s generation”

    So young people think they have only one parent? How silly.

    Or are you just being illiterate, as usual?

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    Won’t happen, remember “Vote for the crook, not the fascist”?

    No surprise that the FN is getting funds from an external hostile power, though. Really does put their goals into the proper light…

  6. Leon Wolfeson

    It’s pretty clear who you support, you know.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    They already are. The French Jewish population (despite being strong secular) is shrinking rapidly, and there’s plenty of people calling for the same sort of state-enforced divided society with it’s controls here.

  8. Guest

    Well sure, of course I don’t trust you.

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    No surprise you can’t find an argument with any of the actual content.

  10. madasafish

    I trust YOU – implicitly.

    To post short three liners full of glib unsubstantiated assertions.

  11. Guest

    You’re confusing everyone else with the person in your mirror again.

  12. madasafish

    Another one line post of unsubstantiated assertions..

  13. Guest

    Indeed, you do keep making them. Why do you feel the constant need to do so, and to comment on your own posts in such a fashion? Why do you constantly need to come here and try and disrupt conversation? Why don’t you go back to the Torygraph, following your own dogma?

  14. madasafish

    I need to counter people like you who make no postive input but just criticise others.

    Sorry not “people like you” . There is only one – you.

    I’m sorry you appear to be an embittered poster – probably due to the fact no-one supports your political views… not that you bother to post them but prefer to attack others….

    I post because I have a viewpoint – right or wrong., You post to criticise others…

    Really you must be very sad.. living like a hermit with plans to save the world that no-one else shares.. 🙂

  15. Skiltz1

    Isn’t it ironic that the political Left condemns the far right for what they have labelled “false promises,” yet the Left has failed to attract any but a meager following while abandoning the working class and, even the concept of a working class. The Left has been banished to a political desert howling at the wind as the defender not merely of reactionary Islamists but such policies as multiculturalism which are now universally despised by the European population. The Right has stepped into the political vacuum as the only relevant answer to the Left’s past, failed policies.

  16. Ollie

    Great article, Jasper! Very informative and well written.

  17. Guest

    Surely Hollande was sincere in his promises, what has happened is that his analysis and therefore his policies were mistaken. It is not enough for a politician to be honest, they also have to be correct in their views.

  18. Guest

    Keep making up nonsense. Labout are not leftist, as you scream your hate. and try to smear the left, when it’s you who holds views different from reactionary Islam in only excuse and target,

    As you praise the last monocult, North Korea, and then claim that your minority views are universal, as you talk about your hatred for democracy and choice for the peons you evidently hate so much.

  19. Guest

    Ah yes, you engage to whine when people are not right wing, as you try and deny the existence of all other views. You don’t need to, you chose to be a donkey’s rear end.

    You are indeed sorry, as you engage in your poltiically correct sterotypining, and claim I’m the one here hiring thugs.

    Keep screaming that being like you, as you try and “save” the world from having people who think…as you try and swap motives with others.

  20. madasafish

    You don’t think: you just post disparaging remarks about others and no doubt think it amuses others..

  21. Skiltz1

    Your grammar interferes with your point but I will wade through it and attempt a response. You claim that the Labour (Party) “are not leftists.” You should add that the Left is not leftist either. After the fall of the Soviet Union the French and other national communist parties have either disappeared entirely or morphed into neo-liberal organizations (the word “party” is too grand a term for these leftist cult cells) – in the old days these parties as presently constituted would have been characterized as “reformist,” “social democratic” or belonging to the Second International (Bernstein, Kautsky, etc.). The political left in all western countries has become the shameless apologist for globalization, multiculturalism and especially its own former nemesis – Islamism – all of the current diseases of corporate capitalism. In other words the Left has rendered itself irrelevant – their only “relevance” today is in their role as the court eunuchs for their Islamist masters.

  22. Guest

    Okay, so you think English grammar is bad.

    Then you try and deny the left exist, as you focus entirely on top-down organisation, and use No True Scotsman because the left are not Isolationist, monocultural bigots like you.

    Your whining is obvious, and no they don’t serve Islamists like you, get over yourself.

  23. Guest

    Keep blaming me for your posts. As ever.

  24. Skiltz1

    The only “Left” that presently exists in today’s political climate are the “leftovers” from the former Left. In England, Sweden, Holland, France, Germany and the U.S. one only needs to survey the barricades at any demonstration to see which side the “leftists” are on – in every case these eunuchs stand shoulder to shoulder with the Islamists, who shit on women’s rights and condemn free speech in favor of religious backwardness and obscurantism. The Muslims murdered over 500,000 communists in Indonesia under the slogan “Down with the Atheists” and the Muslims also completely wiped out the Left in Iran. In one respect, the cowardly communists make life easy for the Right because their laughable and misguided policies toward the “downtrodden masses” usually cause them to commit suicide before the Right even has a chance to dispatch them.

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