French centre-right threatens to tear itself apart after poll defeat

Sarkozy's 'nationalist' campaign attacked as rival factions prepare for leadership contest

Paris

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy may have withdrawn from politics following his failed re-election attempt, but arguments over his legacy are threatening to tear apart his centre-right party.

Battle lines are being drawn to seize the leadership – and the soul – of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) at the party congress later this year, after Mr Sarkozy's ultra-nationalist re-election strategy was repudiated by his own campaign spokeswoman and by two former centre-right prime ministers.

A meeting of party chieftains in Paris yesterday refused demands from several former ministers for an official post mortem on Mr Sarkozy's campaign and presidency. It was agreed, however, that a new charter of "values" would be drawn up by the end of next month in an attempt to redefine the UMP's position on explosive subjects such as race, immigration, national sovereignty and Europe.

Tempers within the party were strained to bursting point earlier this week when Mr Sarkozy's ex-spokeswoman, the former Environment Minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, attacked the political morality of campaign that she had helped to lead.

She suggested that Mr Sarkozy's election strategy had been influenced by the views of Charles Maurras, a leading thinker and writer of the 1930s and 1940s known for his staunch nationalism.

She criticised, in particular, Mr Sarkozy's campaign strategist, Patrick Buisson, a former follower of Maurras, who helped to impose the eurosceptic and anti-Islamic tone of the president's campaign.

The former Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, also accused Mr Sarkozy of "losing touch" with the "humanist wing" of the UMP. One of the principal fault-lines in the much-splintered party divides those who wish to make deals with Marine Le Pen's cleaned-up National Front party and those who believe that the centre-right should be defined by its rejection of racial and anti-Islamic themes.

Frederic Salat-Baroux, chief official in the Elysée Palace under Jacques Chirac, accused Mr Sarkozy in an article in Le Figaro yesterday of leading the UMP into "calculating" but dangerous territory. He said that Mr Sarkozy had led the party in "breathless pursuit of NF votes" by "distinguishing between French people according to their ethnic origins".

Three men are in contention to succeed Mr Sarkozy as the Next Big Thing on the French centre-right this November. They included the current UMP president, Jean-François Copé, who refuses to criticise the Sarkozy line. He won the first round of skirmishing this week when one of his supporters, Christian Jacob, was selected as the new UMP parliamentary leader.

Mr Copé will face a strong challenge, however, from Mr Sarkozy's Prime Minister, François Fillon and the former Prime Minister, Alain Juppé.

Mr Fillon has not criticised the Sarkozy campaign publicly but has done so in private. He has also lambasted several UMP candidates who spoke of their "shared values" with the far-right in an attempt to attract NF votes in the parliamentary elections this month.

Mr Juppé, Prime Minister in 1993-95 under Jacques Chirac, has criticised the Sarkozy campaign for straying too far into NF territory. He hopes to emerge as the man who can draw the party together in the autumn.

Ms Le Pen, meanwhile, hopes to follow up her relative success in the presidential and parliamentary elections by exploiting the fractures within the UMP. She plans to expand her movement by capturing some of the hardest-right UMP politicians, 20 of whom lost their seats in the parliamentary elections.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect