Le Pen's Bete Noir

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The Independent Online
A SMALL, BALDING, vole-like man with an ingratiating smile, Bruno Megret, 49, makes an unlikely demagogue. He is also an unlikely racist and extreme nationalist.

His wife, Catherine, the Mayoress of Vitrolles, near Marseilles, is of Russian-Jewish origin; he is himself half-Greek.

Mr Megret is a classic French technocratic insider - ex-Ecole Polytechnique, ex-Gaullist - who has brought his undoubted political skills to the NF, the party of the malcontented outsider. Despite his polished manner, enemies within the NF allege that Mr Megret is even more of an extremist than Mr Le Pen, more ideologically racist, more tempted to build philosophical links between the NF and neo-Nazism.

The organisational revolution in the past 10 years, which has transformed the NF from a protest group and a vehicle for Mr Le Pen's personality into a hugely effective grassroots party, is mostly Mr Megret's doing. Hence his strength in the local party machines.