Le Pen's HQ up for sale as party declines

For sale: prestigious offices overlooking the river Seine. Previously the headquarters of famous and (once) successful, xenophobic, political party. Offers over €16m (£12m).

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, finally conceded yesterday that his debt-burdened party would have to sell its offices in the wealthy suburb of Saint-Cloud, west of Paris.

The building, known as le paquebot (the steamship), because of its vaguely nautical look, was a symbol of the upward mobility of the party when purchased in 1994. The distress sale is a sign of a radically changed political landscape in France and foreshadows the end of the "Jean-Marie" era.

Whether it also foreshadows the disintegration of the National Front is open to question. The party plans to move into smaller, cheaper and "more appropriate" offices. M. Le Pen's daughter, Marine Le Pen, is poised to take over from her 79-year-old father in the next three years.

The arrival last year of President Nicolas Sarkozy's brand of populist, moderate, right-wing politics severely squeezed the electoral space of the most successful far-right party in any large country in western Europe. The NF lost an estimated €12m in the presidential and parliamentary elections last spring and summer because its poor results generated a smaller harvest of state electoral subsidies.

President Sarkozy's falling popularity has, however, persuaded NF diehards that they may have a future after all. Marine Le Pen said that "good can come of bad" and the move would allow the party to "bounce back" in more suitable offices. Another NF official said: "This is not a funeral. It is just the end of a fat-cat era. We will just have to be more careful about what we spend in future."

The 5,000 square metres of the Paquebot have long been more than half empty. The NF never recovered fully from a split in the party in 1999. It now has only 50 full-time officials.

In the parliamentary elections last June, it put up candidates in every constituency in France. Two thirds failed to reach 5 per cent of the vote – the level which qualifies for state re-imbursement of election expenses.

M. Le Pen has been searching for months for some other way of paying the party's estimated €8m to €9m debt. He has finally accepted that the party headquarters, once the apple of his eye, must be sold.

At a party conference last November, M. Le Pen was re-elected leader for another three years. The conference was carefully managed, however, to position his youngest daughter, Marine, 39, as the probable next leader. It remains to be seen whether this family succession will be accepted by the ultra-conservative Catholic and hard-line xenophobic wings of the party. They place the blame for last year's electoral reverses largely on Marine Le Pen's attempts to present a softer image of a modern, nationalist party open to young people and even to different races.

News
Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London
black friday
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
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

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Disley; £40k

£40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?