The times they have a-changed
Fifteen years ago, over the equivalent weekend, it seemed as if most of the nation was preparing to demonstrate against Jean-Marie Le Pen’s presence in Round 2, calling for a united vote against Le Pen and for the re-election of Chirac. Maybe a million and a half marched in France that May Day, not far short of those who marched after the Charlie Hebdo murders. And, of course, almost every semi-serious politician of whatever stripe (other than Trotskyists) had immediately called for a vote for Chirac. Here are some evocative pix that left-leaning magazine l’Obs has gathered from then.
This coming weekend it would be quite a surprise if there were any sort of major rally against Le Pen. She is part of the landscape now – and her arrival in Round 2 had for so long been foretold that the sole ‘surprise’ was the fact that she came 2nd.
And continuing with that ‘She was 2nd to Macron’ theme, The Economist has done some playful, but interesting, What-iffing?
What if, they pondered, France had used the USA’s system of an Electoral College for electing the President? Taking each of France’s 18 Regions as States, with varying numbers of Electoral Votes according to Regional population, Macron and Le Pen would end up – on the basis of last Sunday’s vote – with the same number of Electoral Votes.
Continuing the analogy, if there’s no majority in the Electoral College, then the U.S. House of Representatives picks the President with each State having one vote. And Le Pen won 8 Regions to Macron’s 6, while coming higher in the other 4 [In France, of course, there were 4 major candidates competing unlike the USA’s 2].
The Economist wrote: ‘Le Pen’s second-place finish … has been hailed as a sign that the global wave of populist nationalism … is receding … The difference between a populist tide and a centrist resurgence may come down to the electoral system.’
Another difference with 2002 is that then every major trade union (bar Force Ouvrière which always refuses to give advice to its members as to how to vote) jointly demonstrated their rejection of Le Pen. But this year there will be no united trade union May Day march; separate marches are being held in different parts of Paris.
And another striking difference with 2002 is that it’s no longer the traditional parties of the French Republic fighting a joint struggle side-by-side against the anti-Republican Extreme Right. It’s now a far more amorphous, even abstract, fight. As Fressoz wrote in Le Monde, it’s ‘open France against closed France, economic liberalism against protectionism, European integration against national introversion’. Not necessarily the easiest themes to defend or prosecute.
The Man Who Wouldn’t Say
Pour mémoire (as is said locally)
- In the High and Far-Off Times, a certain J-L Mélenchon was not at all squeamish about calling for a vote for Chirac against Le Pen in 2002
- in Le Monde at the time Mélenchon wrote: ‘What Left-wing conscience can permit counting on one’s neighbour to protect you … Not doing one’s republican duty [ie vote] because it nauseates you … is taking a collective risk’
- that very same Mélenchon was not so high-minded as to refrain from ‘advising’ Party members and voters when (but 5 years ago) he conceded 1st Round defeat and called for all to ‘mobilise … unconditionally’ and vote to defeat Sarkozy.
Consider the following statement and discuss its possible relevance to one Jean-Luc Mélenchon: ‘Neither man nor angel can discern hypocrisy, the only evil that walks invisible except to God alone’ (Paradise Lost).
Mélenchon was supposed to put a video on his website at 11:00 this morning; his 30 minute film finally arrived 6 hours late. A press statement had warned that Mélenchon would not give advice on voting, saying that he would go to vote and that he wouldn’t vote for Le Pen. Clear? Useful?
Finally, the video where Mélenchon pontificates thus (in French): ‘I’m going to vote … How I’m going to vote I’m not going to say … But you don’t have to be a genius to work out what I’m going to do … Why am I not saying? It’s so you can all remain united. So every one of you, whatever decision you take, can stay coherent with the vote you cast before and continue to be proud of that vote … No, we are not joining his project … But that won’t prevent me from doing what I consider my duty … The nature of the two second round candidates prevents stability. One represents extreme finance. The other the extreme right … Is there one single person who questions the fact that I will not vote for the FN? Everybody knows.’
The Woman Who Finally Did Say
Another leading figure on the Left has also been criticised for equivocation. Delanoe (former Socialist Mayor of Paris) hit hard this morning at Martine Aubry (Mayor of Lille and leading Socialist figure) who still hadn’t said the words ‘Vote Macron’.
Delanoe thundered: ‘I say to Martine: ‘This Macron ballot paper, it hasn’t got a bad smell, it has to be taken to defeat Le Pen’ … I don’t have to hold my nose … Martine Aubry took the Chirac ballot paper [in 2002] and she was right. I also took it. I believe there’s only one way to fight the Front National, the ideology of the extreme right, it’s to take the Macron ballot paper … We have 9 days to reflect, to say ‘Will it not be a fundamental error of morality to make Marine Le Pen’s accession to power easier?’
Maybe Delanoe rather spoilt some of the effect of this all-out attack on Aubry by going Super-Hyperbolic and calling up Adolf Hitler: ‘In Germany in the Thirties, the far left didn’t want to choose between the Social Democrats and the Nazis. Hitler was elected by universal suffrage.’
Still. It’s possible that Aubry is actually moved by hyperbole. By late afternoon the fog had lifted. ‘There was never any doubt for one moment’, said Aubry, ‘about my choice of ballot paper. It’s formerly been Chirac. Last year it was Xavier Bertrand [voting Républicain in the Regional Elections to keep Le Pen from winning]. And it will certainly be Macron on May 7 … The combat against the FN is in my DNA’. But did it really have to take her FIVE long days?
Anyone reading a full account of what happened over the entire three hours at Whirlpool’s Amiens factory cannot but be (as I was) impressed by Macron’s ability. If my reading of several different journalists’ accounts adds up to some sort of near-truth he succeeded in preventing the situation being a total disaster for his campaign. He reacted with statesmanlike intelligence, didn’t panic and would seem to have left the factory on half-decent terms with those who earlier had shouted insults.
However, what (if anything) that will have done for those who chant, disenchantedly, Ni patrie ni patron, Ni Le Pen ni Macron [‘Neither homeland nor boss …’] I cannot say. This is, incidentally, the preferred chant of senior school and University students who’ve found a some like-minded comrades with whom to join in ‘rejection’ and ‘dejection’.
And a coda to the coda: a Whirlpool worker says some FN workers had actually handed out whistles for them to blow when Macron arrived. The FN’s rather well-organised.
Sens commun and La Manif pour tous (LMPT): coda
I have several times referred to the political wing of the anti gay marriage movement, Sens commun: seriously hard-minded social conservatives (Juppé was allegedly quoted as saying that if they ended up in a Fillon Government, he’d be in the opposition). Sens commun‘s immediate reaction to Sunday’s result was the what-one-might-have-expected ‘neither Le Pen nor Macron’ position.
Yet they’ve been outflanked by their progenitors, the original anti gay marriage movement, LMPT. These are the people who fought against the introduction of the gay marriage law, culminating in a Paris demonstration of possibly between 300,000 and a million people. They’ve decided to make their opinion clearly known as to how people should not vote. Macron was described in LMPT’s Press Release as the ‘openly anti-family candidate’ who ‘puts money before human beings’ concluding with a fairly clear ‘Le 7 mai, Macron c’est NON’
Le Pen’s direct appeal to Mélenchon voters
Many of you will not yet have visited Le Pen’s website. Do, please. Just once. ‘To know your enemy, you must become your enemy’ [as Sun Tzu didn’t ever actually write, but what the hell]. Go and look at this professional website. Once you get past the clever welcome page, Le Pen’s video is there (at the time of writing) in the middle between her with fishermen [that was Monday while Macron was messing about doing nothing] and her Nice public meeting. It’s being tweeted under #DangerMacron: ‘Put quarrels and differences to one side’, she says ‘It’s not possible to give the levers of power to Emmanuel Macron’ whose project is ‘ the very opposite of what [you Mélenchon voters] have supported’.
Mélenchon’s spokesman condemned what he described as ‘small rather unworthy manoeuvres … One must not be trapped by her deceitful discourse’. And Communist Party leader, Laurent, condemning Le Pen’s video appeal, urged people ‘Not to be in two minds; there is only one choice, Emmanuel Macron, while we state clearly that we will oppose him determinedly from 8th May.’
Maybe, though, she’s going to lose some of her Mélenchon voters. In her final leaflet – just published – there’s no mention of either the Euro or monetary sovereignty. She only refers to ‘Re-negotiating European Treaties in order to get back our sovereignty and build a Europe of Nations’.
The New York Times has also written about Le Pen’s trawl for Mélenchon voters.
Le Pen tonight on BFMTV said: ‘I want a Presidential majority with all patriots who have chosen France. Mr Mélenchon is not calling for a vote for Mr Macron because he knows that Mr Macron’s project is a project of social destruction … I am going to seek territorial, monetary, legislative and economic sovereignty within the context of a negotiation with our European partners … and I will ask them by referendum if they are satisfied with what I have obtained or if they want me to go further.’
And tonight’s MAGIC number is 10
Le Pen further emphasised her invitation to former Mélenchon voters: ‘The choice to make is so serious for our country that Mélenchon voters have to ask themselves this question: must they vote for a merchant banker? For the continuation of Hollande, but 10 times worse? For someone who has announced that he will unravel the Labour Law by executive decision?’
Dupont-Aignan (who got 4.7% last Sunday) has finally, surely, surprised no-one at all this evening by saying he’ll support Le Pen. Who would ever have thought that a Le Pen-very-little-lite would do anything other? But his estimation of Macron’s position by comparison to Hollande is seriously worse than Le Pen’s. He said tonight that ‘Macron is Hollande to the power of 10’ … a heavy charge, with an inordinate number of zeros. Can he and Le Pen be reading off the same hymn-sheet? [And the Vice-President of Dupont-Aignan’s micro-Party (‘Stand up France’) has just announced his resignation. What a naive man: was he really ever in any doubt?]
Commission Nationale de Contrôle de la Campagne électorale en vue de l’élection Présidentielle (CNCCP)
The CNCCP have published both Macron’s and Le Pen’s final programmes. Full colour: infinitely better than my smartphone can manage.
Interestingly, the CNCCP point out that Le Pen has failed to provide a sound recording of her programme as required by law.
The shepherd bleats
Lassalle – the Presidential candidate who got 1.2% and was the highest-ranking ‘small candidate’ – has said ‘Our history does not force us to choose between hysteria and hysteria. Neither the one nor the other … My vote will be a blank ballot paper as an appeal to resistance [sic]’. [His accent is impenetrable so possibly there’s an error.]
Old habits die hard
Euro-MP, Jalkh, was brought in to replace Le Pen as President of the FN – so she could act ‘above partisan considerations’. Earlier today he was thrown (or maybe jumped) under a passing bus after a full THREE days of being about-to-be-in-office.
An interview with Jalkh, from 17 years ago, had emerged. It was about Nazi gas chambers. Jalkh’s views on zyklon ‘I consider it technically impossible, I repeat, impossible, to use it… in mass murder’ were deemed sufficiently toxic as to require his immediate replacement … so he can spend more time with his lawyers while (maybe) suing for defamation.
Regrettably, the man who’s replaced the earlier Holocaust-denier, Briois (Mayor of Le Pen’s HQ town, Henin-Beaumont) is well-disciplined and articulate. [Although, having just written that, I now see that Le Parisien reports that Briois and others are being investigated by the police for extremely threatening emails directed at the Macron-supporting former Green Mayor of Sevran.]
A dinosaur doesn’t like being kept off-stage
Someone far less well-disciplined than Briois is Jean-Marie Le Pen. He can always be relied on to remind everyone what the old Front National is really all about. He has a regular interview on his website where he reflects on current events. This week, Le Pen talks about the ceremony where President Hollande led the national tribute to the police officer murdered by a terrorist on the Champs Elysées last week.
Back in 2015 that same police officer, Xavier Jugelé, had been called in to try to help sort out the murderous chaos on the Paris streets after the massacre that had taken place at the Bataclan. A year later Jugélé had been at the Bataclan’s re-opening concert, a BBC reporter had met him there and wrote a touching homage.
And then Jugelé was murdered whilst on duty in the Champs Elysées. There was an extremely moving speech at that national tribute by the police officer’s widower: ‘I suffer without hate … You will not have my hate‘ (in French).
Le Pen said ‘It seems to me that there was something ambiguous about this ceremony … We were rather paying homage to the homosexual than to the police officer, because the participation of his spouse, and the long speech he gave, was in a way institutionalising homosexual marriage and exalting it in a public way. That rather shocked me. This distinctive family characteristic should be kept away from this type of ceremony.’
Will Marine Le Pen simply disown her father?