Allies turn on Sarkozy as he makes his pitch to far right

President's party divided on his strategy to court NF voters, fearing he will lose centre-right support

Paris

Fighting for his political life, President Nicolas Sarkozy has plunged further to the right, provoking accusations that he is copying the National Front (NF) and even the ultra-conservative wartime regime in Vichy.

The President's all-or-nothing strategy to win the second round of the election has stirred dissension within his own camp, including veiled criticism by his Prime Minister, François Fillon.

However, a group of advisers close to Mr Sarkozy are convinced the thumping vote for the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen last Sunday was a vindication of the President's Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant and Islam-baiting message to voters in the first round.

The Socialist challenger, François Hollande, won the first round with 28.63 per cent of the vote. President Sarkozy qualified for the run-off with 27.06 per cent. Ms Le Pen, meanwhile, scored 17.9 per cent, higher than any past vote for the far-right National Front. Opinion polls suggest Mr Hollande will beat Mr Sarkozy by up to 12 points in the second round on 6 May.

However, President Sarkozy is reported to be convinced that the high score for the xenophobic, anti-European far-right offers him a "mouse-hole" through which he can climb to a second term.

In a speech in Tours, the President set the tone for an aggressive and divisive second-round campaign. He accused Mr Hollande of "insulting" National Front voters, saying that, unlike the left, he did not "hold his nose" when he spoke of far-right voters.

He said that he "respected" their "cry of suffering" and would respond with "precise commitments" on immigration and the threat of Islam to French "identity". "Protectionism is not a rude word," Mr Sarkozy said, when it came to rescuing French jobs and French identity from "European frontiers open to all the winds".

Mr Sarkozy called on his supporters to rally in Paris next Tuesday – May Day – to celebrate "real work" and "real workers". The National Front traditionally parades through Paris on 1 May to commemorate one of its official heroines, Joan of Arc. There are also trades union marches on May Day in cities throughout France.

By calling for his own demonstration of force, in favour of "work" and against "welfare", Mr Sarkozy has been accused by Mr Hollande's camp of trying to "divide" France. He has also been accused by others on the left of reviving the attitudes and language of the collaborationist Vichy regime of 1940-44.

The hard-right strategy, inspired by Mr Sarkozy's ultra-nationalist campaign adviser Patrick Buisson, has infuriated some figures on the pro-European, moderate right in France. A former member of the Sarkozy government, Chantal Jouanno, who was Environment Minister, criticised the President's approach yesterday. "The correct response [to the NF vote] is not to abandon our own ideas and veer off to the right," she said in a television interview.

Mr Fillon made a more coded attack on the President's strategy. He ticked off Ms Jouanno for breaking ranks and denied – against all the evidence – that Mr Sarkozy was careering after NF votes. But he then went on to say that the "spirit" of the French Fifth Republic constitution demanded that presidential candidates should "unite" the nation during the second-round campaign, "not zig-zag in pursuit of specific electors".

Mr Hollande is also chasing NF voters but insists he is offering a message of "hope, confidence and national unity", not one of "fear and division". He campaigned yesterday in the Aisne in northern France, where he scored 27 per cent of the vote on Sunday, just ahead of Ms Le Pen with 26.3 per cent.

Quite apart from its constitutional correctness, some people in the President's camp fear that Mr Sarkozy's more divisive approach is tactically suicidal. "Patrick Buisson believes that this big vote for Le Pen was part of a rising nationalist tide but it is just as much a rejection of five years of Sarkozy," one parliamentary member of Mr Sarkozy's party told The Independent yesterday. "We won't sway the real Sarkozy-haters who voted NF with this rhetoric but we are giving François Hollande hundreds of thousands of votes in the centre."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
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

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?