Anybody who knows the French right-wing knows it has never been anything like the American right-wing — at least, not until now. In an interview on Monday with the Financial Times, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French right-wing Front National, expressed sentiments that could have come from Ronald Reagan:
“I defend the right of the French to rule themselves, to protect our identity, our culture, our values, our way of life. I demand the right to be proud of my country – to be a patriot, like the Americans.”
Le Pen has steered her eurosceptic party to lead position of 23 per cent in the latest opinion polls, putting her Front National ahead of both the centre-right UMP (22 per cent) of former president Sarkozy and the Socialist party (17 per cent) of President François Hollande in the final run-up to the elections to the European Parliament this week.
“A party of 10-15 per cent is just a party of protest. A party that starts to win 25 per cent is a party of government. It completely changes the mentality,” she said.
She added that the Front National is “popular not populist.”
The FT identified her polices as “a clampdown on immigration and crime; measures to counter Islamic fundamentalism; demands for ‘intelligent protectionism’ to shield France from globalisation; and a wholesale assault on the EU and the eurozone, with demands for a return of national currency and national frontiers.”
The way Le Pen has managed to shift the tone of the party has helped attract voters from both the working class left, disillusioned by unemployment, and the right.
Le Pen told the FT: “What probably changed the party more than anything else was myself. The fact that I am a woman, less young than I was but still a little bit, made the stigmatisation we suffered from anachronistic. It is much easier to demonised Jean Marie Le Pen [her father, former leader of Front National] than Marine Le Pen.”