The Right-wing writer Eric Zemmour has pushed aside the Le Pens, and now poses a serious challenge to Emmanuel Macron.
Article by Douglas Murray for the Telegraph 8 October 2021
It is a truism of French politics that the public consistently vote for revolution and then balk at the slightest change. They elect candidates who make claims far more grandiose and sweeping than non-French politicians would dare. And then, when the same politician makes a tiny adjustment to the retirement age, for instance, the French public come out onto the streets and shortly afterwards turf their revolutionary of choice out of office.
President Macron is proving a fine example. When he rose to prominence in 2016-17, he was the epitome of the outsider-insider candidate. He may have had the right educational background, but he didn’t even have a party, let alone a set of candidates, until he was well on the way to being anointed President of the Republic.
Yet four years on, Macron has been a stable but unremarkable president. The economic and societal problems that France faced before his tenure are as present now as they were then. And as the opportunity to return to the ballot box comes around again in 2022, the French public are once more looking for an available revolutionary to kick the previous one in the traditional indelicate manner.
At this exact point, for the past four decades, the exact same story has played out. That is the ogreish story of the Le Pen family.
In the 1980s, when President Mitterand needed to split the French Right to remain in office, he actually enabled Jean-Marie Le Pen to look like a serious candidate for the presidency. Not least by making him part of the television debates and cynically sending Le Pen’s ratings soaring.
It was an artful if disgraceful move. Certainly, part of the French public liked Le Pen’s Vichy-ite talk, but a larger portion on the Right was put off by it and by everything that Jean-Marie stood for. It is the tragedy of the French Right that Le Pen and his family have continued to be a presence in every election since then.
Because each election cycle, the story is the same. The other candidates take into account the Le Pen candidate (nowadays Jean-Marie’s less radical daughter Marine) and spend part of their time trying to subsume and imitate certain of their concerns. Then they warn the country of the dangers of going anywhere near the Le Pen dynasty.
Each time, it works. The foreign press gets excited about the prospect of a serious upset in French politics. But the taint of the Le Pens is such that the public will never vote in significant enough numbers to allow one of them into the office of the president.
This time, however, it seems possible that the Le Pen family’s disastrous hold on a portion of the French Right may finally be slipping. An alternative has emerged. The author and commentator Eric Zemmour has not even announced his candidacy yet. But already the polls show that if he does run, he will effectively kill off Marine Le Pen as a serious candidate.
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Douglas Murray is the author of ‘The Madness of Crowds’. His new book, ‘The War on the West’, is published next year
Eric Zemmour lors d'un déplacement à Budapest, en Hongrie - ATTILA KISBENEDEK - AFP