I make no secret of the fact that I am a Francophile and have visited France on many occasions, both on business and for pleasure, since that first school exchange trip back in the sixties. French is the one language I have a degree of confidence in and have been known to wax lyrical when using it in French speaking company. On my last visit, two years ago, when I took my wife for a birthday treat to Paris on the Eurostar, upon alighting the train at the Gare du Nord and then onto the Paris metro, it felt like I was coming home. The highlight of our trip was going up the Eifel tower, but given the queue and the number of vendors, usually of African descent, trying to sell us stuff, I would have much rather extended our trip on a boat going up and down the Seine while being wined and dined in typical French fashion. I suppose it is the French laid back yet discerning attitude toward food and wine and indeed life itself, along with its love hate relationship with authority (the British complain and comply; the French concur and exercise contempt) I find attractive.
It is this attitude that influences their politics too. Today’s standout news is the flooding (yet again) in Cumbria (that deserves a separate blog) and the surprising yet significant results in the French elections that shows the National Front party doing remarkably well. Wikipedia states: “The National Front (French: Front national) is a socially conservative, and nationalist, right to far-right political party in France. Its major policies include economic protectionism, a zero tolerance approach to law and order issues, and anti-immigration. A eurosceptic party, the FN has opposed the European Union since its creation in 1993”.
One of the news headlines, under the title: “France elections: Le Pen says political elite ‘crumbling’” and starts off: “The triumphant leader of the far-right National Front (FN), Marine Le Pen, says French voters rejected the “old political class” in regional elections that put her party top. Nearly one-third of voters backed the anti-immigration FN, which won in six out of France’s 13 regions.” I should state I am not a fan of far right politics, finding them tending toward hate and over-simplification. I felt the founder of the French National Front, Jean-Marie (father of Marine) Le Pen, to be an unpleasant man who demonstrated this. It seems his daughter is more canny, trying appeal to the more moderate thinking masses. For example, instead of condemning Islam she warns against the danger of French Islamification, and many agree she has a point as she does on issues raised in the above Wikipedia reference. Whether her party will gain the power she hopes for remains to be seen, but the signs are ominous. Similar first round results have been seen in the past but a sort of unholy alliance between opposing other parties have generally managed to halt the NF band wagon.
The question shortly be decided is will it happen this time round? We will soon know. But what does seem clear is the electorate is sending some sort of message in the wake of the recent Paris bombings, the refugee crisis and French air strikes in Syria. Just as in the UK, but to a lesser extent, a significant number have courted far right parties in the past, although more recently UKIP have filled that gap, this is what we are seeing in France and while I don’t want to declare expertise on a subject I am not qualified to pontificate on, it does seem the common element is national pride and preserving the best in the respective countries cultural heritage, which is in danger of being overtaken by multi-culturalism and politically correct ideology. This itself is a big subject and one I have discussed in the past, along with the British equivalent to NF hobby horses. As is generally the case, I try to look for the middle ground.
The fear I have if NF make gains is the sort of intolerance of minorities that appear to be their trademark will continue and the disgraceful treatment (not of their making) of fleeing sanctuary seekers camped in the Jungle in Calais will only get worse, yet some of the issues the NF have raised will not go away and if those opposed to the NF fail to come to grips with these I see the NF gaining serious power soon. Immigration, for example, is an issue where people hold strong views. While I detest some of the bad treatment meted out to immigrants, especially sanctuary seekers, and minorities, there are things to be done to control the worst excesses that aren’t and is where the debate is needed. The same goes for issues like Europe, law and order and national identity.
As I say, I love France and the French. I watch and hope and pray for a good outcome in the next stage of the election process, looking out for the welfare of both the French people and for all those who come under the French influence, like immigrants and sanctuary seekers, on similar lines as I do in the UK situation. And while the past several hundred years have seen many conflicts between France and the UK, and while not a fan of the French secularist status quo, there is much in the French way of life worth preserving and a friendship between our nations I would like to see strengthened.