The French presidential election campaign is coming to life. We will know soon who are the serious runners on the Right, one of whom will win through next April to challenge Emmanuel Macron in the decisive second round.

Éric Zemmour, who has been the favourite of the anti-Macron camp in England, has to decide finally if he will stand. His statements are getting more and more incoherent. His visit to London last week was a flop.

In an interview on French public radio this week, Zemmour spent time mocking and denouncing Marine Le Pen as a sell-out and proclaimed:

I am a member of the elite. Only an alliance of the patriotic elite and the lower classes can save France.”
Only he, a 63-year-old journalist, with a penchant for eccentric historical comparison
s, could stop French civilisation

being replaced by another civilisation”.

Although he is Jewish himself, Zemmour has praised Marshal P
é
tain, the war-time leader of Vichy France, who collaborated with the Nazis to send scores of thousands of French and other Jews to extermination camps.

Zemmour told listeners to the major French radio news station

FranceInfo

 that the

feminisation
” of judges was bad for France. For him, moreover, the arrest of the then head of the IMF and likely presidential candidate
Dominique Strauss
-Kahn for sexual assault in New York in 2012 represented

the castration” of France, even though he was subsequently acquitted of this and later of other sexual crimes.

French presidents like Mitterrand or Chirac who seduced women magnified their power.”

It is true that Mitterrand and Chirac put even Bill Clinton and Boris Johnson to shame with the number of women they used their power and prestige to sleep with — but is this serious language from a man who wants to run France?

Now Zemmour is trying to suppress a mass-circulation weekly, Closer (think a French version of

Hello

with lots of sex stories) for revealing that his 28 year old aide, Sarah Knafo, is pregnant. He has been accused of sexual misconduct by a number of women, though he denies everything.

The big beneficiary of Zemmour

s rise is Marine Le Pen (pictured above). She has been trying for four years to detoxify her father

s National Front,
renamed the National Rally, and now she has the gift of a would-be candidate who is a far more extreme anti-Muslim xenophobe.

The Chief Rabbi of France says Zemmour as an

anti-Semite and a racist” — describers once used against Le Pen p

è


re et fille.

She sounded remarkably cheerful on a walk-about in provincial France, mocking Zemmour

s obsession with banning non-French first names, including for some reason, Kevin.

She laughed when a supporter urged her to marry Zemmour and welcomed another who said he would tattoo his back with her portrait. Zemmour

s support has slumped by 6 per cent since the beginning of November, a fall that is matched by Marine Le Pen

s rise by the same amount. Her rival
has been endorsed by Vladimir Putin, as Zemmour is clear he will have nothing to do with the European Union and weakening the EU after Brexit is Putin

s primary foreign policy objective.

Zemmour is now faced with a tough decision. Does he run? If he does he will have to answer questions about the price of petrol, vaccination policy, education, pensions — the priorities of most French citizens. So far, when Zemmour has left his preferred themes of white French civilisation being replaced by a black-brown Muslim takeover, he starts to stutter and gets lost. Few in France can see him getting anywhere close to entering the second round.

Meanwhile early next month the main centre-right party, Les R
é
publicains, have to choose their candidate. 150,000 party activists will decide. Some 50,000 have joined in recent months, rather like the surge of new members into the Labour Party after 2015 which led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

This is why the wily Michel Barnier, who was first elected as a deputy aged 28 and is by far the most seasoned political veteran in the race — think Joe Biden — has been showing plenty of right-wing leg. He has come from nowhere to become the second placed favourite for the vote of party activists on 4
th
December.

Barnier is not a stellar performer in TV debates. Immigration and law and order are the top priorities for LR party activists. Hence Barnier

s proposal to suspend all immigration into France, principally from the 16 former French colonies in Africa.

Family members from Algeria, Tunisia or Morocco can relatively easy enter France much as cousins of Kashmiri, Bangladeshi, or Indian Brits come to Britain, sometimes for arranged marriages.

Barnier is not challenging EU freedom of movement but he is critical of some of the right-wing neoliberal decisions of the European Court of Justice. The left-wing French economist, Thomas Piketty, has written a new book, in which he argues that states can withdraw from commitments made by previous governments if these threaten social harmony.” This is aimed at the European Court of Justice and decisions of the European Commission which are seen as weakening worker rights in a Thatcherite manner with consequent lowering of income for poorer households.

Barnier is surfing this new mood as the long era of European Commission neoliberal ideology, driven forward by Margaret Thatcher from 1980 onwards, draws to an end. 
At all events by early in December we will have more clarity on who will be running in the French presidential election next year. 


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