Le Pen accuses NF rivals of `racism'

THE TIME BOMB of personal hatreds, rivalries and suspicions at the heart of the ultra-right National Front finally threatens to explode this week, with far-reaching consequences for French politics.

An atmosphere of fearreigned at the NF headquarters in Saint Cloud yesterday, as leading members of the party turned their well-honed powers of vituperation and paranoia against one another. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party's president, stalked the corridors, suspending senior officials he suspected of supporting hisrival, Bruno Megret.

After months of submerged warfare, Mr Le Pen, 70, has publicly accused Mr Megret of leading "a minority of extremists, even racists" in a putsch against him (the first time that Mr Le Pen has admitted that any part of his party is racist).

The NF secretary-general, Bruno Gollnisch - a Le Pen loyalist - said on television that the party was the victim of a "take-over bid by foreign powers", including the "American secret services". Mr Megret, 49, may be many things, including a racist, but it is difficult to picture him as an agent of the CIA.

His followers, far from cowed, are pushing for an emergency congress of the party in February. The rebels believe that if the grass roots could be consulted, they could end Mr Le Pen's 26-year reign as "Chef" of the most powerful extreme nationalist party in western Europe. More likely, the far right - a fragile alliance of mutually loathing groups - is about to split into separate movements. This would give the centre-right parties a golden opportunity to reconquer the ground lost since Mr Le Pen's breakthrough in 1984.

A Stalinesque purge of Mr Megret's supporters has gathered pace since a turbulent meeting of the NF national council at the weekend, when Mr Le Pen was booed by some senior NF members.

One leading Megret supporter, Pierre Vial, compared Mr Le Pen to Louis XVI: An out-of-touch monarch, unable to comprehend the insurgent forces around him.

Mr Vial was ejected from the party on Monday.

Another leading official, Serge Martinez, was ordered to prepare a hit- list of local activists and officials who supported Mr Megret. He refused and was ordered out of the party by Mr Le Pen in person as he walked down a corridor in the NF headquarters. In a press conference, Mr Martinez said a "witch-hunt" was in progress and the "very survival of the NF is at stake".

Mr Megret is unlikely to walk out; but he may be pushed. He is estimated to enjoy the support of 60 out of 100 members of the central committee and 17 out of 40 members of the party's political bureau, as well as the majority on several regional councils of the party.

Mr Megret's supporters, mostly young or middle aged, believe that he can move the party out of the ideological ghetto created by Mr Le Pen and begin to form electoral alliances that would bring them, and some of their extreme nationalist and xenophobic ideas, to power.

Mr Le Pen and his supporters, including most of the party's old guard but also many younger front activists, accuse Mr Megret of being prepared to exchange the party's ideological purity for a few cabinet posts. Most of all, perhaps, the struggle is about Mr Le Pen's refusal to accept that the NF is no longer his personal fiefdom.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
football
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
weird news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?