Harry de Quetteville meets the Right-wing TV pundit who has transformed France's presidential election campaign and writes for the Telegraph on 19.11.21:
The firebrand candidate is currently leading the pack chasing incumbent president Emmanuel Macron - despite not yet formally declaring his candidacy
He arrives late, immaculate in a dark blue suit, besieged by his own social media teams, a member of his entourage stepping forward to straighten his already straight tie, this firebrand of French politics, this man they call “Z”, like the mask-wearing hero of old school TV shows.
But unlike Zorro, Eric Zemmour, journalist turned star turned insurgent candidate for next year’s French presidential election, is only too pleased to reveal his true identity: as the saviour not of the damsel in distress, but of the nation, in what he frames as a clash of civilisations between France and Islam, the latter of which he fears will “brutally crush” his native land.
“It’s about life and death for France,” he says. “About a people being replaced by another people, another civilisation.”
It’s a clash that has all the more resonance because, unlike the Le Pen dynasty - Jean-Marie and now Marine - who campaigned on similar themes with the National Front, Zemmour, 63, has roots in North Africa himself. His family arrived from Algeria in 1952. But they were Jewish, not Arab - a distinction that now serves twin political purposes: insulation from charges of anti-Semitism frequently levelled at the Le Pens; and as living example: one community determined to integrate, he claims, the other, in his words, not only resistant, but actively dangerous to the French body politic, driving a “Great Replacement” of the native population, with ever-larger Islamic diasporas “who impose their morals, their laws, their beliefs, their names, with a colonialising logic.”
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Mr Zemmour tries on a striped shirt as he visits the 'Made In France' expo at the Porte de Versailles exhibition hall in Paris Credit: IAN LANGSDON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock