French right falling apart over EU poll

THE FRENCH National Front, the most powerful far-right party in western Europe, is being ravaged by the most destructive internal quarrel in its 26-year existence.

Relations between Mr Jean-Marie Le Pen, the NF President, and the party's de facto second power, Bruno Megret, have become so poisonous that some insiders are predicting a permanent split in the movement in the next few weeks.

At the same time, the NF is about to announce a considerable public relations coup. Charles de Gaulle, the late President's grandson who is an obscure right-wing Euro MP, is expected to join the NF list in the European elections next year, although not the party.

Even this is likely to fuel the internal feuding within the NF. Two of the party's most powerful clans are Vichy apologists and former Algerian colonists, both of whom regard the original De Gaulle as a traitor to France.

Other party insiders suggest that the Le Pen-Megret quarrel over who should lead the NF list at the Euro-elections can still be patched up if both men are prepared to compromise. But the long-suppressed struggle for the succession to Mr Le Pen seems to be spinning out of control.

To the amusement of outsiders, the battle is being fought with the unscrupulous vituperation. "Le Pen is ready to break his toy rather than let go of it," said one Megret supporter.

Another senior NF official told Le Monde that the 70-year-old Le Pen was going through "a crisis of senility".

A leading Le Pen backer described the group of clever, careerist young men surrounding Mr Megret, 49, as politicians who expected to go straight from "baby food" to the cabinet.

A meeting of the NF political bureau on Monday - at which Mr Le Pen threatened to throw two of Mr Megret's lieutenants out of the party - produced screaming and shouting so loud that it could be heard in neighbouring rooms in the party's headquarters in Saint Cloud, south-west of Paris.

Mr Megret is outwardly a more moderate and practical man than Mr Le Pen, but is said to be privately even more extreme in his racial and nationalist views. Although detested by many in the NF, he has stealthily built his own power-base.

Mr Megret also knows more about the internal dealings of the NF - and especially its mysterious finances and the personal finances of Mr Le Pen - than any other man but "Le Chef" himself. If he is forced out, as seems possible, he will try to bring down the temple behind him. "Le Pen's courtesans dream of a purge ... but Megret is not an isolated figure. His expulsion would blow the movement apart," one Megret supporter told Liberation.

Behind the struggle is the belief of the Megret supporters that the "old man" is holding back the NF. He is seen - not without reason - as a wrecker and rabble-rouser, with no real interest in power. Mr Megret believes that the NF could move on, post-Le Pen, to be the pivotal force in a French political scene shifted sharply, and permanently, to the right.

The immediate cause of the quarrel is the judgment banning Mr Le Pen from seeking political office for two years. The ban was part of his punishment for a physical assault on a female Socialist candidate during the parliamentary election campaign last year.

If Mr Le Pen's appeal is turned down by a court in Versailles next month, he will be unable to head the NF list in the Euro-elections in June. In that case, Mr Megret expects to lead the NF list, which would make him a clear candidate for an early succession to the party's leadership.

Not at all, retorted Mr Le Pen. If he lost the appeal, the leader of the NF list would be his own wife, Jany (someone with no previous experience of politics).

This was supposed to be a political master-stroke to which Mr Megret could not object. But Catherine Megret ran successfully for mayor of Vitrolles, near Marseilles, last year when her husband was banned for electoral irregularities.

In the event, Mr Megret's supporters used the decision to tar Mr Le Pen within the NF as a nepotist and autocrat, driven by personal vanity and not the nationalist cause.

Mr Megret forced the decision to be formally withdrawn. Undeterred, Mr Le Pen has moved in recent weeks to purge Megret and his supporters from the Euro campaign team.

In an unusually blunt interview this week with the NF-leaning newspaper, Present, Mr Megret declared: "No one is the proprietor of the National Front. Our movement belongs to its supporters and electors, to the French, to France."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz