When it comes to changing Prime Ministers, Emmanuel Macron has much in common with the Conservative Party. Both are on their fourth premier in seven years with the French President this week unveiling Gabriel Attal as the latest leader of his government. …
Poll after poll puts Le Pen at the top of voting intentions, not just for the 2027 presidential election but also the Europeans in June this year. Last month, Le Monde newspaper claimed that Macron was “shaken” at the rise of Le Pen, which some have attributed to her “normalisation”.
When she replaced her father as head of the National Front in 2011, the Le Pen brand was toxic. But she has shaken off the sins of her father, in particular his anti-Semitism: in November, one of France’s respected Holocaust awareness campaigners expressed his delight that Le Pen and her 88 MPs were participating in a rally against the rise of anti-Semitism in France following Hamas’s attack on Israel.
Macron must bear much of the blame for this normalisation of Le Pen. He has presided over soaring rates of illegal immigration, Islamic extremism and insecurity, promising much but delivering little. Last month, Le Pen’s National Rally (as she rebranded the party in 2018) and the centre-right Republicans conspired to pass an immigration bill that she hailed as “an ideological victory” for her party. …
Another reason for Le Pen’s popularity is the way she has tapped into the anxieties of lower-income workers – France’s Red Wall – in a way no other party has managed. These are concerns not just about identity and insecurity, but also a cost of living crisis that shows no sign of easing.
In this respect, Le Pen is greatly helped by her No2, Jordan Bardella, a 28-year-old from a housing estate in Seine-Saint-Denis, an impoverished district to the north of Paris. He was elected president of the National Rally in 2022 and has swiftly made a name for himself as a deft debater with a good grasp of detail; a fortnight ago the French public elected their 100 favourite personalities of the year. Bardella was the top ranked politician at number 30; second was Attal at number 57. Macron was 63rd.
It’s hard to see the dapper but privileged [and gay and Jewish] Attal winning the hearts and minds of blue-collar workers. They are angry, gloomy and frightened, and they blame Macron. Campaigning for the 2017 election, Macron said he was “neither left or right”, and when he was elected he declared in his victory speech that a “new page” had been turned in “our history”. But it wasn’t. He has proved to be just another elite Paris technocrat. Instead of transforming France into a Start-Up Nation, as he boasted he would do, he’s turned the country into a Broken Down Nation, bedevilled by riots, strikes, crime and a bloody drugs war between rival gangs [of non-French origin].
The French feel let down by their president so they are now thinking that as they’ve tried every other party, why not try Le Pen’s? After all, Giorgia Meloni hasn’t ruined Italy – despite all the fear-mongering on the left about her being Mussolini in a blouse. [Of course The Telegraph writer has a ridiculous idea of what ‘ruining’ would mean.]
Once, the prospect of a Le Pen in the Élysée would have been inconceivable, but now it’s a distinct possibility. Should it happen in 2027 then that really would mark a new chapter in the history of France.
Two years ago, after yet another couple of nights of rioting in the banlieues, twenty retired French generals wrote an open letter to Emmanuel Macron, then about to run for a second term, warning that the divisions between communities and increasing “violence and nihilism” in France would eventually cause a social breakdown, with a risk of “chaos” leading to a “civil war” that would then “require” a military “intervention… in a dangerous mission to protect our civilisational values and safeguard our compatriots”.
Strong stuff, co-signed by some 100 senior officers and about a thousand other members of the military, in a country where the Army is known as “the Great Mute”, i.e. never expressing a preference in national politics. …
Yet this week Olivier Véran, the cabinet spokesman, seemed to share those conclusions as, on a visit to the village of Crépol, south of Lyon, he warned that France might be at a “tipping point” after the fatal stabbing of a local 16 year-old boy. Condemning both the knife attacks during a Saturday evening dance and the subsequent march by right-wing activists intent on a fight into the neighbourhood where the suspects live, the minister vowed that the government would stand with the bereaved family and called for a harsh sentencing, “up to a life sentence [with] no mitigating circumstances”, for the culprits. He reportedly added that the government is “clearly” aware that violence from “packs” is ratcheting up “tensions… you can’t stand these gangs any more… neither can we”, promising the “full mobilisation” of the state to “guarantee the safety of all citizens”.
Too little, too late: the minister’s well-meaning words were badly received. One of the villagers reportedly shouted to Véran: “You’ve done much more for them than you do for the hard-working people in the countryside, who get no benefits and raise their children with values.”
“Them” means the problem groups in council housing, many of whom are children or grandchildren of Muslim immigrants, like the Crépol knife-wielding attackers who disrupted the Saturday evening dance, allegedly shouting “we’ve come to get whites”. The Valence judiciary refused, against general custom, to give first names for the suspects they arrested. The entire country suspects why the names were not given: in the well-meaning aim not to “stigmatise” an entire community whose immense majority is law-abiding.
This time, several newspapers chose to question that decision (the centre-left Le Parisien, which belongs to Bernard Arnault, the luxury magnate, printed the Arabic first name of the suspected killer).
For almost three decades, government after government chose not to look too closely at a worsening situation. France was for centuries a land of successful assimilation. Italians, Spaniards, Russian Jews, Poles came and became French. But sheer numbers, as well as the change from a requirement to “assimilate” to the easier one of “integrate”, mean the French model is broken.
Each separate failure concurs to the general breakdown of the national compact. The long-admired French education system is no longer fit for purpose: our schools have slid from the top to the bottom of the PISA rankings in just a few years, especially in those areas where non-French-speaking children account for the majority in most classes. School teachers are less and less respected by both the body politic – which allowed their salaries to fall by half in real terms – and by their pupils, disruptive and often violent. In some areas, the history of the 20th century, especially of the Holocaust, has been near-impossible to teach for years: inroads by Islamism in the classrooms, long denied, have contributed to the murder of two teachers in three years.
The police, meanwhile, are badly paid, badly considered, often afraid for their lives in the areas where they must keep order, they resign in droves. (The profession has one of the highest suicide rates in France.) As a result, training time has been reduced from a year to eight months, so bad is the need for boots on the ground.
As a result, trust between the ruling classes and the people has declined in lockstep with France’s economic and cultural decline. (If you live in the centre of Paris or Lyon, even Marseille, you can send your children to good private schools and Grandes Écoles, almost guaranteeing good jobs that will enable them to keep living where the crisis is not felt.)
Like his predecessors, Emmanuel Macron first displayed indifference towards the chaotic immigration system: the new Immigration Bill, about to be debated by the National Assembly, tries to correct the laxist trends of recent years, but it will neither address the problem of French-born citizens who profess hate for their country, nor the rising arrivals from troubled areas. It may not take much for the next round of riots, or for an equally violent blowback from a hard-right deciding to take matters into their hands. That civil war the generals prophesied two years ago may be around the corner.
Mr Wilders is expected to appoint a new scout [the person appointed by Wilders to negotiate with other parties to form a government]– someone with “more distance from politics” – by Tuesday.
It came as he warned mainstream Dutch politicians that their refusal to back him in forming a government would lead to his support getting “bigger and bigger”.
“Now we have become the largest party in the Netherlands by far,” he wrote on social media.
“But still some politicians don’t get it. Does the political box of tricks open again? Is it forgotten that if we do not get a chance to convert the vote and democratic mandate of millions of people into managerial responsibility, we will only get bigger and bigger? Because the genie is out of the bottle and won’t go back in?”
Wilders’ frustrations aimed at Ms Yesilgoz
Much of Mr Wilders’ frustrations are aimed at Ms Yesilgoz, whose VVD has led the last four Dutch coalitions after she refused to join his government.
“I find it incomprehensible that they are not participating now,” the PVV leader said, adding that it is an “emotional decision of the VVD” not to join his cabinet.
“I hope they come to their senses. It would be a shame if there was no centre-right cabinet.”
Mainstream politicians have been cautious about committing to support Mr Wilders because of his history of Islamophobic and Eurosceptic views.
Irish author Paul Lynch won the Booker Prize on Sunday. His novel, Prophet Song, imagines an Ireland that has fallen under Right-wing totalitarian control, and begins with members of the new secret police rapping on the door of a union leader to interrogate him for “sowing discord and unrest” against the government.
Novelists are free to dream up all manner of fictional scenarios, however far-fetched. The irony is that this is the exact opposite of what is happening in Ireland right now. The government in Dublin is indeed introducing extraordinary new legislation to restrict freedom of speech. But it’s not horrid Right-wingers conspiring to suppress nice, decent liberals. It’s nice, decent liberals scrambling to stamp out the opinions of what they call the “far-Right”. And far from being alarmed by this assault on basic freedoms, the broad swathe of progressive opinion in Ireland is fully behind it, including most voices in the broadcast and print media, and every major party.
Since riots broke out in Dublin last Thursday, following the stabbing of three children, the cries for action have become ever louder. The government led by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has now pledged to have the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill on the statute book “within a matter of weeks”.
The new law would surely have escaped international attention had those riots not happened, but Dublin’s eagerness to regulate hate speech has, as internet parlance puts it, “gone viral”. Now the whole world knows that Ireland is poised to pass one of the most draconian pieces of legislation in modern times, which will see Irish people facing potential jail sentences of up to two years for the possession of literature “likely to incite violence or hatred” against others on the grounds of certain protected characteristics, including race, gender and sexual orientation.
The police and courts will not even need to demonstrate that the material in question was intended to be distributed to anyone other than the owner. It will be “presumed, until the contrary is proven” that it was. It’s reminiscent of the Soviet Union, where having copies of literature banned by the state, known as “samizdat”, was enough to fall foul of the KGB.
To make matters worse, the Irish government has not actually defined in the bill what “hatred” is, saying that to do so could “risk prosecutions collapsing”. Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, continues to insist citizens will be able to speak freely, but a senator for the Green Party, one of three parties in the governing coalition, let the cat out of the bag: “We are restricting freedom,” Pauline O’Reilly said, “but we are doing it for the common good.”
Ireland, sadly, has a long tradition of censorship. There was once a body with a wonderfully evocative name, the Committee on Evil Literature, which recommended banning publications deemed harmful to the newly independent nation’s Catholic values.
The country prides itself on having come through that dark time, but all that’s actually happened is that the term “evil literature” has been redefined to suit contemporary values. They haven’t stopped enforcing orthodoxy. They’ve simply found a new woke dogma to enforce. No one is writing novels about that. After all, owning such a book could land you behind bars soon.