Le Pen blow as old ally defects

LIFE CONTINUES to be unpleasant to Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The leader of the far right National Front party has been abandoned by yet another ally, this time Jean Marie Le Chevallier, the mayor of Toulon, who is one of his oldest political friends.

Mr Le Pen has been caught in Belgium with a small ar- senal of dangerous weapons in the boot of his car. His position in the opinion polls is slipping close to the point where he could lose all credibility as a force in French politics.

As if this were not enough, a court began hearings yesterday to decide who has the legitimate right to the National Front's name, symbol and cash. If Mr Le Pen loses, he could be forced to share all three with Bruno Megret, the long-time second force in the NF, who set up his own rival party, the National Front National Movement, in January.

The breakaway party has difficulties of its own. After rising to 6 per cent in the polls - 1 per cent above the mark that it must reach to scoop seats and public subsidies in the European elections in June - Mr Megret's movement has melted back down to 4 per cent.

But Mr Le Pen's "official" National Front is scarcely doing better. The most recent surveys give the NF only 6 per cent, a third of its score in the polls before the split. If confirmed at the European election, this would be the xenophobic and ultra-nationalist party's lowest score for 19 years.

Mr Le Pen, 70, is mani- festly rattled and behaving erratically, even by his own standards. When Belgian police found a loaded semi- automatic rifle, 50 cartridges, and two tear gas grenades in his car in Brussels, he claimed to have been the victim of a sting operation and railed at a local television crew in an insulting, mock-Belgian accent.

The defection of Mr Le Chevallier, the mayor of Toulon - who has declared himself an independent - is especially damaging to Mr Le Pen. The two had been friends for 24 years and political allies for 15 years. Toulon was the jewel in the NF's crown, the largest town it had ever won.

The mayor's defection reduces the number of town halls under Mr Le Pen's control to one - Orange in the Rhone valley. Two other NF-controlled towns, in the Marseilles outer suburbs, have gone with Bruno Megret, as have more than half of all the party's local councillors nationwide.

Mr Le Chevallier said that he was quitting the NF because he could no longer tolerate Mr Le Pen's unpredictable behaviour and his inability to "share power".

The two men are said to have fallen out several years ago, partly over the increasing influence of Mr Le Chevallier's ambitious wife, Cendrine. Mr Le Pen, it is reported, has not spoken to Cendrine Le Chevallier since 1995.

The mayor of Toulon has, so far, refused to join forces with Mr Megret, whom he detests. It is thought more likely that he will rejoin the "traditional" right, from which he defected to join Mr Le Pen in 1983.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • 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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions