French Blairites form new party

A TEXAN politician once said: "There ain't nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and dead armadillos." Much the same - allowing for differences in fauna and road-markings - could be said of French politics in the past 40 years.

This weekend an attempt - maybe historic, maybe doomed - was made to generate a strong force in the centre of French politics. The Union pour la Democratie Francaise (UDF) - a kind of holding company of centre and right parties since 1978 - was remoulded into a new single party of the centre. This opens up the possibility of alliances between the centre and left for the first time since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958.

In the shorter term, the new centrist party must decide whether to go it alone in the European elections next June, abandoning the quarrelsome coalition of the Gaullists and centre right that has dominated French conservative and liberal politics for two decades.

The President of the UDF, Francois Bayrou, told delegates to the founding convention in Lille that they were opening a new chapter in French politics. "This is the end of a long march and the beginning of a new way," he said.

The new party, which will have 68 deputies in the National Assembly, is broadly pro- European, pro-market, in favour of modernised welfare systems and better directed state spending. It might be described as a French Blairist party - Mr Bayrou is a great admirer of New Labour.

A string of speakers at the weekend called on the party to present a separate list for the Euro elections, cutting formal links with the Gaullists and other right-wing parties. A decision will be made in January.

The stable but stultified landscape of French right of centre politics has been blown apart in the past eight months.

A series of unauthorised local alliances with the far-right National Front forged by a handful of regional barons last March destroyed the old structures, leaving the national leaders in an often undignified scramble to pick up the pieces.

The neo-Gaullist RPR - itself an uneasy mix of populism and liberalism, nationalism and Europeanism - has survived more or less intact as the most important single formation on the centre right.

But parts of the old UDF coalition have spun off into two, competing right-wing parties, some of whose members are tempted to form permanent electoral alliances with the anti-immigrant, extreme nationalist NF. The former defence minister Charles Million, now in alliance with the NF as president of the Rhone-Alpes region, was ejected from the UDF and formed his own mildly Eurosceptic party called La Droite. Alain Madelin took his Democratie Liberale party out of the UDF and into informal partnership with the Gaullists.

The rump of the UDF - Mr Bayrou's centrist Force Democratie, members of two other small parties and a few anti-Madelin former liberals - decided at the weekend to pool their resources. Even then, the two small parties - with four MPs between them - have insisted on maintaining a separate identity for the time being.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before