Le Pen family feud over Nazi supporter's expulsion

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The Independent Online

The plot of King Lear threatens to comes to life at the headquarters of the French far-right party, the National Front.

Rather like Shakespeare's ancient king, the founder of the NF, Jean-Marie Le Pen, 82, has surrendered power to his daughter, Marine. Like King Lear, Mr Le Pen is not ready to go into a peaceful retirement.

Yesterday he publicly chided his daughter for expelling a National Front official who was pictured on a news website giving a Nazi salute to a swastika flag. Mr Le Pen suggested that Marine, 42, who is on holiday in Thailand, had acted "hastily" and she might like to "appeal against her own decision" when she gets back.

The public spat – the first since Marine took over the presidency of the NF in January – could be electorally damaging for the new leader of France's far right. Ms Le Pen is riding high in opinion polls after abandoning some of her father's more extreme positions and promising to root out all signs of anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathies within the party.

Alexandre Gabriac, 21, a local party official and county councillor in the Lyon area, was shown in a photograph on nouvelobs.com last month giving a Nazi salute with his left arm to a swastika banner. The disciplinary committee of the party, including Jean-Marie Le Pen, accepted his story that the photograph had been faked. Earlier this week Marine Le Pen overruled the committee's recommendation that he should be given a warning and expelled him from the party.

In an interview with the French news agency AFP last month, Ms le Pen said she intended to be "firm and brutal" with any signs of neo-Nazi sympathies in the NF. She said of Mr Gabriac that he was a "bloke who belonged to the Oeuvre Française" – a far-right pressure group which sympathises with the wartime Vichy regime which collaborated with Nazism.

In an interview yesterday, her father, who remains the NF "honorary president for life" said he thought his daughter had acted "hastily without all the information available".

"There is nothing stopping her going from ill-informed to better in formed," he said. "She could appeal against her own decision."

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