Regardless of who wins in France, the damage has been done

April 23, 2012 5:03 pm

The first round of voting in 2012’s French presidential election is over. Two outcomes proved both important and unprecedented. One, for the first time, an incumbent French President lost in the first round of votes. Sarkozy won 27.8% of the vote to Hollande’s 28.6%. Two, the fascist candidate – Marine Le Pen – secured a record 17.9% of all ballots cast. These two factors will combine to influence the second round of voting in significant ways. But what they say about the existing state of French politics, regardless of who wins the election, is more important still.

In the second round of presidential elections, Sarkozy will be confronted with an obvious tactic: swinging further to the right. This, he may decide, will secure the support of disappointed Le Pen voters. Many who voted for Le Pen will vote for Sarkozy regardless of his approach, especially given his illegal deportations of Roma people from France, general anti-immigration stance and attack on diversity in recent years. But Sarkozy must be sorely tempted to woo the far-right further, making ever bigger policy promises that appeal to their taste.

The socialist candidate Hollande, with his left-leaning promises on tax and education, will continue to offer the main alternative to Sarkozy and his Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party. The election will therefore be a classic race to see, in the last period of campaigning, who can appeal to the most swing- and undecided-voters in order to win.

But in some ways, it doesn’t matter who wins this election. This is because the fundamental damage to French society has already been done. I say this, as the very fact that around 18% of voters would see fit to support Le Pen reflects just how deeply the anti-immigration, far-right agenda has penetrated mainstream French politics. No new president in France, neither a socialist nor a politician of the centre-right, can change this disturbing fact.

And worse, I believe it highly likely that – whoever wins the election – the far-right trend in France will continue.

Let me explain. A victory for Sarkozy would protect and promote the anti-immigration, anti-diversity agenda in France as well as promote its ongoing entrance to the French mainstream. A second term for Sarkozy may even see the right-wing President feeling indebted to – or emboldened by – populist far-right narratives. In that eventuality, the far-right’s agenda in France can only flourish, led by the Trojan Horse of a president willing to confront diversity and immigration head on. This would probably occur in the context of ever more severe austerity in France, a perfect environment for far-right sentiment to flourish.

Of course, Sarkozy may soften his line on such issues, no longer facing the need to find extra votes from extreme right-wingers in France. But, at the very least, the fact that to win he needs such people over in the second round of presidential voting will change his perceived constituency, and maybe even perceptions of his mandate too.

With Hollande, and the potential turbulence of a re-writing agreements with Germany about tackling the Eurozone’s problems, we may see the French economy get worse before it gets better.

Neither man – Sarkozy or Hollande – has control over the real factors in deciding how far the far-right boom in France will develop, and that is the recovery or otherwise of the Eurozone’s economy.  Already, we are seeing storm clouds gathering in Spain – problems I believe Spain can come through but problems nonetheless. Yields on Spanish 10 year bonds are above 6%, a trigger point for other troubled Eurozone countries in the past. If any such similar problems hit France, the real lack of choice will become clear. With Sarkozy, the far-right will continue to boom under his austerity and anti-diversity policies. With Hollande, the far-right will have far more to complain about politically plus the potential of France encountering Spanish and Italian style debt problems as a result of markets spooked by a socialist victory. 

To put the French result in perceptive, Le Pen has received a level of electoral support higher than many third parties in Europe’s established mainstreams. Le Pen and her party are fascists. France really must confront the appalling facts of this matter, and not just at election time when the unacceptable politics of Fascism have been exposed as mainstream, thriving and more popular than ever in the Eurozone’s second largest economy. 

Claude Moraes is a Labour MEP for London.

  • Brumanuensis

    I was in the Var a few weeks ago – historicall
    y ‘Red Var’, a socialist stronghold, which in 1848 sent a majority Democratic Socialist delegation to the National Assembly. The influx of ‘pieds noirs’ after 1962, along with pensioners, has transformed it into a conservative stronghold – unlike neighbouring Hautes Alpes where the Socialists still have a decent foothold. My impression was that 80 – 90% of the posters I saw were in support of Marine Le Pen. The remainder were almost all for Melanchon. Although the south-east is traditionally a good area for the far-right, I was taken aback by the sheer volume of posters, which seemed out of proportion to what Le Pen was polling.

    Just a few thoughts from first-hand observation.

  • robertcp

    A fascist getting 18% of the vote is a concern but we should not get carried away.  She is slightly less odious than her father, which is why she got slightly more votes than when he came second in 2002.   He got less than 20% of the vote in the second round and the same thing would happen to his daughter.

    Parties like the BNP, UKIP and EDL would probably get a similar vote if we used the French voting system.

    • treborc1

      Well the problem with that of course is when do you take them seriously at maybe 30% or 40%.

      The problem in France of course is the same problem here, politics has become Middle class.

      • robertcp

        It will be serious if a French fascist got more than about 25%.  They would then be in the second round or might even win.  However, I think that there is an anti-fascist majority in France, so they will never win under the French voting system.  Of course, a fascist party with 20% of the vote would be really worrying if first past the post was used for elections. 

        • treborc1

          Lets be honest the far right in the UK had labour running, Brown would have sworn labour would have come behind them, it’s so dam lucky the far right have Griffin he is the biggest turn off.

          To be honest when the three parties knocked on my door, if you had taken away the badges for ID, I would have sworn blind the BNP were labour, labour sounded so much like the Liberals, and the liberals sounded lost.

          the problem is over the next few years we could see a feeling that the parties have nothing to say for them, all we are hearing is austerity and it’s aimed to much at the bottom

  • derek

    Breivik implied that Sarkozy agreed with his immigration policy. Anyone trying to win over the far right vote could well be pinned down with some far right nutters. 

  • GuyM

    Whilst I’d agree that the amount of votes for Le Pen is worrying, I do find it funny that the candidate on the extreme left equivalent to Le pen gets no mention.

    I hope Hollande wins and he does exactly what he is promising to do. Investment with flee France (along with a lot of the rich), the markets will crucify any attempt to reduce the budget cuts and you’ll be left with an anti austerity leftie faced with the reality of trying to borrow his way out of a debt crisis, which will be hugely enjoyable to behold.

    Plus the Euro will get another kicking.

    If I were Cameron I’d be praying for Hollande to win, a clear example of what Labour proposes re. the deficit gettting tried out across the Channel,  would be perfect for the Tories.

    • derek

      You reckon? the german workforce will force Merkel to have a u-turn on the 0.5% overspend on GDP, Sarkozy would be mad to lean to the right, so he’ll also go with the left if Hollande doesn’t win, so we’ll have a refocused Europe easing up on the austerity and paying down the deficit by growth and more employment while Cameron and Osborne sink further into the sand pit.

      • GuyM

        If Sarkozy wins he’ll treat it as validation is centre right policies are accepted.

        But anyway, let’s hope Hollands wins and shifts dramatically leftwards. I am all for France being used as an isloated lab rat for leftwing policies. As I say above, if yo are so sure it will all work Derek then you and the rest of the left have nothing to fear do you?

        • Chilbaldi

          “I am all for France being used as an isloated lab rat for leftwing policies”

          So am I. It could be an interesting example for the Labour Party to follow, whether that means following similar policies or continuing along a centrist route.

          • GuyM

            Hopefully if it happens and the outcome mirrors the disaster of Mitterand’s attempts in the early 80s, you and others on the left won’t try the usual “ah but it wasn’t really socialism” type argument that is used every time a left wing experiment goes horribly wrong?

        • derek

          You seem to be a lone-wolf on the economic outcome for Europe, Cameron’s failed economic austerity measures have been a complete utter disaster, it looks as though the four walls are closing in on Osborne and Cameron. General election by 2013?

          • GuyM

            Take a good look at whatMitterand did in the early 80s Derek.

            I’d be more than happy for Hollande to try exactly the same now.

          • derek

            Hmmm, I think China and the world in general needs Europe to ease up on the austerity. Clearly we’re not in this together and the debt mountain isn’t shrinking.

            Hollande has grasped the concept on future growth, that’s the area all nations will eventually adhere to, well, all nation apart from Cameron’s broken Britain.

            Not really relevant (Mitterand?)  apocalyptic capitalism needs it’s creases ironed out.Surely you don’t want to continue with what we have now?

    • Brumanuensis

      “Whilst I’d agree that the amount of votes for Le Pen is worrying, I do find it funny that the candidate on the extreme left equivalent to Le pen gets no mention”.

      Maybe because Melenchon isn’t leading a Party of  Holocaust-deniers who specialise in racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric? 

      “I hope Hollande wins and he does exactly what he is promising to do. Investment with flee France (along with a lot of the rich), the markets will crucify any attempt to reduce the budget cuts and you’ll be left with an anti austerity leftie faced with the reality of trying to borrow his way out of a debt crisis, which will be hugely enjoyable to behold”.

      Mad-cap austerity, of course, is doing wonders for Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and indeed the Eurozone as a whole, as yesterday’s PMI figures for services and manufacturing illustrated. As Larry
      Elliott put it:

      ‘Markets take fright at high budget deficits and rising debt levels and demand severe belt-tightening. When the belt-tightening has the desired effects, markets demand to know where the growth is going to come from’.

      It would be funny, if entire economies and the livelihoods of millions of people, weren’t being destroyed in the process.  

      • JoeDM

         Holocaust-denial is not the preserve of the extreme right.   Left wing “progressive” types supporting islamist organisations also go in for that sort of delusional thinking.    Just look at volume  and content of the  anti-Jewish comments on the Guaridain CIF website.

      • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

        “Maybe because Melenchon isn’t leading a Party of  Holocaust-deniers who specialise in racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric?”

        There is an important point in this. Sarkozy is now lurching to the right and legitimising Le Pen’s racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. We now need to be aware of the possibility of Cameron doing similar in the run-up to the next general election, when to distract from his disastrous management of the economy (and also to derail a growing UKIP threat) he may continue with his previous scapegoating of multiculturalism.

        Labour should get its retaliation in first and launch a realistic and optimistic defence of multiculturalism – though the success of this may be dependent on there being people within Labour’s elite with sufficient experience of the every-day circumstances where multiculturalism pertains.

        • GuyM

          Firstly there is no history of right wing racist parties in the UK.

          The BNP policies economically and the like are very left wing.

          The Tories have never been racist and I spent years in the Party during the Thatcher decade and racism just wasn’t evident.

          So there is nowhere for Cameron to go to pick up those sorts of votes even if he was inclined. The UK equivalent of a protest vote from the right is UKIP. UKIP aren’t racist, they are anti EU which is a totally different thing.

          Multiculturalism as a concept has failed and is now causing a lot of problems where ethnic minorities have clustered in ghettos.

          Local councils printing leaflets in 30 languages, immigrants not being expected to speak English, these are example of what multiculturalism has become and thus failed.

          Central London employment wise is the most “diverse” city on the globe race wise and it works, but that’s because people of all natios are integrated in white collar offices…. but that sort of integration is not what “multiculturalism” represents.

          The sooner every immigrant is expected to engage with the UK on the UK’s terms and not have a mass free for all the better. We speak English, we are judeo-Christian in cultural backgrond and we obey a western rule of law with liberal attitudes to personal freedoms including freedom of belief.

          All immigrants should fit in with us on those basic concepts, not us fit in with them.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

            Speaking English is something which the majority of immigrants which to do in any case – its for many one of the main reasons why they came here in the first place

            The law should certainly be the same for all, which it is.

            However, the Judeo-Christian stuff is purely about our past heritage. A small minority of people here have any sort of active religious observance and many of us are atheists and have no religion. I don’t consider that I am culturally Christian, because Christianity is about a religious belief. Jews would certainly disagree with the idea that ‘Judeo’ can be placed before Christian! So immigrants of different religions should not be expected to adopt any other religion to live here.

          • GuyM

            It’s not about religious observance, it’s the cultural base that counts. You may get very few people saying they go to Church on a Sunday, but ask them if they want to maintain the primacy of the culture that the Church played a large part in creating and you’ll see large majorities.

            Jews would not disagree with the term Judeo-Christian and I know quite a few of them personally. They regard Christianity as a mistaken extension on their own beliefs, both being “of the book” etc. with Christians including the old Testament in the bible etc.

            Plus I do not expect anyone to adopt a religion, but I do expect immigrants to aaccept the cultural, legal and social base of the UK and not complain about being asked to integrate.

            Plus multiculturalism seems to have resulted in a vast number of “poor” immigrants that the rest of us have to pay for via benefits and services i.e. NHS.

            I’d like as many well skilled immigrants as we can get, I want as few economic migrants who end up with extended families on benefits as we can get.

            And people don’t come to the UK due to English, they come due to the rule of law, welfare state and the chance of working to get some degree of income.

            Personally I’m sick to death of the list of groups the left think I’m morally obligated to work to provide for, but I guess that list will never end for people like you Mike.

          • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

            “I do expect immigrants to aaccept the cultural, legal and social base of the UK ”

            Do you include Beth Din courts within the cultural, legal and social base of the UK?

          • GuyM

            The Beth Din are a voluntary court, for a religion that doesn’t have a UK history of forced participation, murder of apostates or those who bring “shame” etc.

            Plus they have been part of the UK since the end of the 18th century, the jews being known for integrating into their host countries, unlike certain other religions.

            Unlike Sharia courts which should have no part in the UK legal options.

          • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

            A perfect example then of the multiculturalism you claim has failed.

          • GuyM

            We don’t mean the same thing, your view of “multiculturalism” is not mine.

            Massive immigration; left wing councils stopping Christmas and similar lunacy; preference in housing and social services to immigrants; and the horrible kowtowing to islamic hardliners that undermines British laws and freedoms.

            But it’s all ok as you hate “Englishness” don’t you Dave. Plus they are all Labour voters so the more the merrier eh?

          • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

            My view is that the success of multiculturalism is proved by the existence of Beth Din courts in the UK. You are, of course, free to disagree with this and declare its presence a ‘failure’.

            As for “left wing councils stopping Christmas and similar lunacy;  ” – that’s the Diamond White talking.

            And with regard to hatred, I don’t hate anything, least of all England; though I understand why you feel it necessary to claim I do.

            And btw, aren’t you the one who frequently posts confessions of hatred on this blog?

            It’s a funny old world.

          • GuyM

            Well I pretty much despise Islam and it’s contribution to the world we live in.

          • Brumanuensis

            Which councils have banned Christmas, Guy? This isn’t about Winterval is it? Because as a resident of Birmingham, we’ve always known that was a load of nonsense.

            On the preference for migrants: http://fullfact.org/factchecks/migration_social_council_housing_foreign_nationals-18654

          • GuyM

            Oxford council had a “winterval” as the council run charity thought it “more inclusive”.

            Lambeth council renaming their Christmas lights “winter lights” for fear of upsetting minorities.

            Birmingham you already know about.

            Lambeth removed nativity displays a few years back due to minority concerns.

            and so on…

          • http://twitter.com/gonzozzz dave stone

            “Multiculturalism as a concept has failed and is now causing a lot of problems where ethnic minorities have clustered in ghettos.”

            There’s nothing new about concentrations of populations in particular areas – it’s a function of the distribution of wealth and it’s been with us for centuries.

            Problems can arise when opportunities for shared experience are absent. This can lead to harmful detachment, as noted by Nadine Dorries* yesterday – an obvious indicator that there’s work to be done.

            *http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17815769

      • GuyM

        The problem for Cameron and the rest of the realistic EU leaders is that there isn’t any real left wing alternative in government.

        As a result Balls can sit and state that everything would be sweetness and light if only we would spend our way out of trouble. The fact we don’t have in the revenues to do so, that the bonds markets wouldn’t accept it and that our key export markets are in an even worse state than we are are things to pretend don’t exist for the sake of electoral position for Labour and factors beyond the intelligence of most Labour voters.

        Cameron NEEDS a large EU economy to try the proposed Labour route and see what happens. France is similar to the UK, but with bigger problems in terms of exposure, so the results in terms of bond markets, interest rates and national deficits should come faster.

        But this should please Labour no end shouldn’t it? If Balls and Hollande are right, then France doing exactly as suggested will show everyone else up won’t it?

        Balls will be able to point across the Channel at the roaring success France will become in comparison to centre-right austerity and no one will be able to argue against him.

        So we’re all agreed then? Hollande for election, immediate centre left policy of pump priming, increased taxation on the rich and reduction in cuts and see what happens.

        You’ll have a direct comparison between the UK and France and no doubt as to which approach delivers the best results.

        Of course if France goes into meltdown financially with soaring interest rates, then Balls will look the idiot that the right thinks he is.

        But that won’t happen will it? All you lefties must be right and spending your way out of a debt crisis, spending even more than you have in revenue, sticking two fingers up at the bond markets, increasing taxation significantly and splitting the Euro concensus will all be a magnificent success and change the whole dynamic of orthodoxy across the western world.

        I look forward to watching it all work itself out, vote Hollande!

        • robertcp

          Yes, it will be interesting if Hollande wins.  I am not sure that he is as left wing as people seem to think.

    • JoeDM

       Excellent article by Dominic Lawson in the Indie this morning : http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/dominic-lawson/dominic-lawson-one-thing-unites-le-pen-voters-and-the-left–protectionism-7670594.html

      He points out the similarity of policies of the extreme Left and extreme Right.
      He also reminds us of the Mitterrand epoch back in the 80s when a leftwinger was elected with the same sort of polices as Hollande is proposing and the disaster that followed.

      • GuyM

        That aritcle’s content about Mitterand ought to be required reading for Labour.

        He did almost exactly what the left are now calling for and it was a total bloody disaster. It seems though that the left are incapable of anything other than repeating the same terrible economic policies.

  • Brumanuensis

    In response to GuyM’s comment about ‘Winterval’, the Birmingham Winterval is an urban legend that spiralled out of control due to the laziness of the tabloid press. It is not a valid example of ‘political correctness gone mad’ (PCGM for short). Even the ‘Mail has admitted this: http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/mail-admits-winterval-did-not-rename-or.html

    The Oxford example is not so much PCGM, as the council trying to cash in Diwali by creating an umbrella term for a two-month period of winter-related activities. They were so anti-Christmas that they went and stuck a great big Christmas tree in the town centre. Bastards. 

    For Lambeth, well I’ll just post this: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/6228203D-B01A-49C1-8B15-583F75C90D25/0/FaithFocus316Nov2amended.pdf

    I can’t find anything on the Nativity. I would just like to say that the threat to Christmas from money-grubbing types who start Christmas sales in September, is greater than any ‘threat’ from PCGM. In fact, it doesn’t really matter how great the first threat is, because the latter doesn’t exist. Only in country where the 25-26th December are public holidays to celebrate a festival that the entertainment and catering industry is entirely geared around serving, could people complain that ‘Christmas is being cancelled’.

    Anyway, back to La Belle France.

  • Rob

    Claude, you are wrong on so many levels here. Unpleasant as they may be, but the Front Nationale is not fascist. To say it is shows a complete lack of understanding of what fascism is. Normally, Godwin’s Law refers to posters, not the article writer.

    You are also rejecting the clear and obvious concerns of millions of French people who are not always racist, and not fascists.

    What is really disturbing is that a few people on the Left fail to even comprehend why voters think that immigration is too high, and don’t see huge problems that some of those immigrants do not want to integrate, or are even actively hostile.

    I would suggest that at lest 50% of the population of the UK, France, Germany,  the Netherlands and Demark have serious concerns about immigration, and fail to understand why “diversity” means excusing sexism, homophobia, and religious fundamentalism. That doesn’t make them fascist. Indeed, its rather more progressive than your views.  

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