Word reaches us that Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National and daughter of infamous quasi-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen (who also led FN), is thinking of coming to London to campaign for Brexit. A few outlets have run the story, including The Guardian which included this understatement of epic proportions in their article on the subject:
“The mainstream Vote Leave camp would be likely to keep their distance from Le Pen.”
This is particularly important given the line in Gove’s recent speech regarding the Remain campaign’s supposed scaremongering on Brexit, when he said they were trying to advance a theory that “an alliance of Vladimir Putin, Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump, emboldened by our weakness would, like some geopolitical equivalent of the Penguin, Catwoman and the Joker, be liberated to spread chaos worldwide and subvert our democracy”. If you’ve cited someone in a speech in order to make the idea that you’re collaborating with them absurd, being seen to then collaborate with them would indeed be an exceedingly bad idea.
Better still, Le Pen is thinking about sharing her platform in the UK with Janice Atkinson – the former UKIP MEP (she was expelled from the party) who infamously called a woman originally from Thailand who works in Ramsgate market a “ting tong from somewhere”. If I was working for Vote Leave, I would be throwing everything at getting Le Pen to decline involving herself in this intervention (up to and including begging Arron Banks to intervene) – if I was working for Stronger In, on the other hand, I would be offering to host the event and pay for Le Pen’s expenses.
As the BNP eventually discovered, the British public don’t like the idea of fascism – it’s something that goes very culturally deep in this country. Now, there is a nationalistic streak in the English in particular that is very angry at present, and this can be tapped into with ideas which touch the edges of fascistic sentiment to political gain. But if you go full blown Nazi, you’re screwed.
Marine Le Pen has tried to smooth out some of Front National’s rougher edges in a bid for more mainstream support (unfortunately, reasonably successfully), but she can’t change what the party is by its very nature. It remains opposed to the French Revolution and wishes for a return to monarchistic rule, although to be fair it doesn’t shout about this a whole lot these days (so it is literally in favour of tyranny) – although Marine Le Pen also talks a lot about upholding France’s “secular values”, so like most far-right entities, FN is riddled with inconsistencies. The party has an infamous history with antisemitism – and while Marine has distanced herself from the worst of her father on this subject, the worst was pretty dementedly terrible (Jean-Marie was on occasion a holocaust denier).
If she does make the trip, the Remain campaign have their referendum broadcast all sown up. Just intercut Obama’s speech asking the country to stay in with the worst of Le Pen’s speech and voila – two foreigners telling us what to think about our continuing membership of the European Union. One is the French leader of a party with a long history of supporting fascism (against even their nationalistic tendencies, FN have even voiced support for Nazi occupation during the Second World War in the past) – the other, the super bad leader of the Free World and commander in chief of the “special relationship”. Who are you going to listen to?
If I were Matthew Elliot, I would be hiring some French speaker to harass Le Pen’s office every day until confirmation is given she isn’t crossing the La Manche. After all, if you’re pro-Brexit, who are the French to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do, am I right?