France's National Front: After a series of political setbacks, it seems Marine Le Pen is not so mighty as all that

 

Paris

After three years of almost unbroken success, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen has begun to stumble in her drive to steam-clean and re-brand the French far right.

Poor polling results and a series of embarrassing defections and outbreaks of grass-roots racism within her party have left Ms Le Pen facing the prospect of disappointing results in local elections in March.

The National Front still has high hopes of topping a nationwide poll for the first time in the European Parliament elections in May. So far, however, a critical year for her experiment in laundering the French far right has started badly for Ms Le Pen.

An opinion poll yesterday suggested that the National Front might capture only nine per cent of the nationwide vote in the municipal elections in March – compared to a forecast 16 per cent in September. In other polls in recent months, Ms Le Pen’s personal popularity rating has begun to slide for the first time since she replaced her father as party president almost exactly three years ago.

The polling set-backs coincide with – and are partly explained by – a series of defections by converts to “Marinism” who have stormed out of the NF complaining that the party remains racist, homophobic and amateurish. At the same time, Ms Le Pen has been forced to suspend, or dismiss, a series of NF municipal candidates who have made racist comments on blogs.

Pollsters also attribute her slide to the renewed controversy surrounding the anti-semitic black comedian, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. Marine has distanced herself from Dieudonné but he remains a friend of her father, the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Marine, 46, has attempted – in her own words – to “de-demonise” the NF by banishing outright racists from the party and abandoning the scarcely coded anti-semitic and Islam-baiting language of her father. She has moved the party towards the left on social and economic issues while campaigning strongly – UKIP-like - against immigration and the European Union.

This approach has attracted recruits from the Centre-right and from the Left – a series of whom have stormed away again in recent weeks complaining that the NF remains irredeemably racist at its core.

Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from Dieudonné Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from Dieudonné
The latest defector from the centre-right to re-defect is Vincent Morelle, 24, who days after joining the NF found himself director of the party’s election campaign in the large suburban town of Meaux, east of Paris. In an interview this week with the left-wing newspaper Libération, he said: “They have put up new curtains but, at the back of the shop, nothing has changed.”

At local party meetings, he said, members referred to the black justice minister, Christane Taubira as a “filthy monkey”. The local mayor and MP, Jean-Francois Copé – also the national president of France’s main centre-right party – is of Jewish origin. He was allegedly routinely referred to at NF meetings as “Copélovici” and the “deportation” candidate.

In November, Nadia Portheault, an NF candidate for the municipal elections in Saint-Alban near Toulouse, stormed out of the party saying that there was a “gulf between Marine’s words and a party base…which specialises in filthy jokes on Arabs and homos.” Ms Portheault is of Algerian origin.

In the same month, Anna Rosso-Roig, who had migrated from the Communist Party to become an NF municipal candidate in Marseille, resigned describing her new party as “anti-Muslim”, “brutal” and “sexist”.

The National Front has dismissed these defectors as, in effect, double agents, or triple agents, sent in by other parties to make trouble. Party officials have also minimised the importance of the dip in the opinion polls.

Marine Le Pen’s reduce popularity rating remains – at around 29 per cent – higher than President François Hollande, they point out. Jean-Marie Le Pen never climbed so high.

The collapse in the forecast score in the municipal elections is partly explained, they say, by the fact that the National Front cannot afford the money – and cannot find the candidates – to run in scores of towns. This, however, points to the limits of Ms Le Pen’s drive to remodel and “professionalise” the party.

In the European elections in May, when turnout will be low, the NF still hopes – like UKIP in Britain – to top the poll nationally. But pollsters are beginning to ask whether the popularity of Marine Le Pen, like a racehorse or athlete, has “peaked too soon”.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
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

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam