From friends to enemies, to wary allies: now France's new alliance targets middle-of-the-road



In Texas, it is said, there is nothing in the middle of the road except yellow lines and dead armadillos. In France, the political middle ground is more like a giant amoeba: constantly splitting and re-forming and splitting once again.

The two most powerful centrist barons in France are announcing the creation of an alliance to fight the municipal and European elections next year and, implicitly, the presidential election in 2017.

François Bayrou and Jean-Louis Borloo - once friends, later enemies, now wary allies - will call their movement "L'Alternative". They plan to fill the vacuum between Francois Hollande's unpopular, governing Left and a main centre-right opposition party, the UMP, increasingly drawn towards the populist rhetoric of the far right.

If they succeed, the main beneficiary could, paradoxically, be Marine Le Pen's face-lifted National Front. A powerful centrist presidential challenger in 2017 could take enough votes away from the main centre-right candidate, or from President Hollande, to allow Ms Le Pen to reach the two-candidate second round.

Friends of former President Sarkozy, who has undeclared ambitions to run in 2017, have been begging Mr Borloo to abandon his negotiations on a new centrist alliance. He gave his response on Sunday evening when he sent a double tweet with Mr Bayrou to announce an inaugural press conference today.

The "Alternative" will be pro-market economically, liberal on social issues, cautiously green and enthusiastically pro-European. Its creation marks - for the time being at any rate - the death of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy's efforts to create a single mass party of the right and centre.

That party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), was founded in 2002 from two allied but quarrelsome formations of the centre-right, the Chiraquian neo-Gaullists and a centrist federation, the UDF, created by former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in the early 1970s. Mr Bayrou, 62, a former education minister from the French Basque country, refused to join Mr Chirac's new movement. He ran for president in 2007 and 2012 as the leader of his own centrist party, the Mouvement Democrate (MoDem).

Mr Borloo, also 62, is a highly successful lawyer turned politician whose fiefdom is at the other extremity of France, at Valenciennes on the Belgian border. He originally joined Mr Baryou in 2002 and split with him in 2007 to join President Sarkozy's government as finance minister and then environment minister.

He toyed with the idea of a presidential run in 2012 and created his own movement after Mr Sarkozy's defeat, the Union des démocrates et Indépendants which has seven separate member parties.

Mr Borloo is said to have been distressed by the hard-right tone of Mr Sarkozy's 2012 campaign and the rightward drift of the UMP in opposition under pressure from a buoyant National Front. He and Mr Bayrou believe that an historic opportunity now exists to rebuild the French centre.

They will doubtless be reminded by the press today of some of the unpleasant remarks they have made about one another in the last six years. Mr Bayrou is said to have dismissed Mr Borloo as an "inconsistent coward. Mr Borloo accused Mr Bayroo of "killing the centre". "He doesn't work," he said. "He just has his own Cannes film festival at every presidential campaign".

A primary campaign is likely to decide which of the two will carry the centrist banner in 2017.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Emily McDowell Card that reads:
artCancer survivor Emily McDowell kicks back at the clichés
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvBadalamenti on board for third series
Life and Style
Standing room only: the terraces at Villa Park in 1935
Ben Stokes celebrates with his team mates after bowling Brendon McCullum
sportEngland vs New Zealand report
Amal Clooney has joined the legal team defending 'The Hooden Men'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine