She has given the Front National a makeover, but it remains true to itselfby Christine Ockrent / June 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
“Marine, 45, is blue-eyed, blonde, stout, aggressive and talented. A lawyer with a smoker’s voice, she has been in politics since she was 18.” © Gauthier Bouchet
It took Jean-Marie Le Pen 42 years to build his political movement on the ruins of “French Algeria” and the remnants of pre-Second World War fascist ideology. It has taken his daughter just over three years to transform the Front National (FN) into a party palatable enough to take the lead in the latest European elections.
Marine, 45, is blue-eyed, blonde, stout, aggressive and talented. A lawyer with a smoker’s voice, she has been in politics since she was 18. Enthused with her father’s oratory, her whole life ensconced in the family estate near Paris after two divorces, she has been smart enough to dissociate herself from her father’s anti-Semitic obsessions. She openly contradicted him for the first time in June over a comment he made about a Jewish pop star, in which he appeared to refer to the Holocaust. The dyed-in-the-wool old activists may have thought she was too soft at first, but she has delivered victory.
The Front National today has just one face: a woman—the only female leader in French politics—whose looks, personal history and lifestyle seem commonplace enough to appeal to a wide variety of voters. Women see no condescending attitude; those on low incomes, deserting the left, like her vocabulary; the young, bored with mainstream political egos and tricks, find her provocative; successful second generation immigrants, who want law, order, and less foreigners, agree with her arguments.
The far right today is an aggregate of several layers: anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigration, anti-globalisation, anti-liberal “Anglo-Saxon” market economy and finally anti-Europe. The pyramid is all wrapped up in “Bleu Marine”—the slogan she has chosen to forge her brand.
In 1984, when Jean-Marie Le Pen appeared for the first time on the main political TV show of the day, L’Heure de vérité, it was a national scandal. The rumour was that François Mitterrand, then President, had encouraged it in his successful ploy to weaken Jacques Chirac’s conservative party before the European elections—Le Pen got just under 11 per cent of the vote. Marine was on the set, watching her father.
In 2002, I had the dubious honour of moderating her first TV performance, when we needed to balance comments about the…