What We Learned from Marine Le Pen's Controversial Marr Show Appearance
A right-wing populist chatting to the BBC about stopping immigration, on Remembrance Sunday? What fun!
Donald Trump's victory showed the world that anything is possible. Unfortunately, it was also a reminder that more possibilities aren't always desirable. This was not a return to the optimism of childhood, when you truly believed you could become an astronaut. This was more like a return to the exciting possibilities offered by the Cold War.
Eyes are now turning towards the next electoral upset which will spur the world on towards societal collapse. In Austria, the populist far-right Freedom party is on the verge of taking power in elections on the 4th of December. On the same day, a referendum on constitutional reform will be held in Italy - a vote which is largely seen as a vote of confidence in the centre-left prime minister Matteo Renzi.
And then there's France, where a presidential election will be held early next year and where Front National leader Marine Le Pen is now leading in the polls. One could argue this should be a source of comfort, given the extent to which polling has been discredited recently, were it not for the fact that voters have recently discredited themselves by consistently voting against their own interests.
On Sunday morning, Le Pen was interviewed on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show. This upset a few people, many of whom remarked that it was an insensitive date to schedule an appearance by a far-right politician – presumably in the belief that Remembrance Sunday is no time to be thinking about the danger of fascism. Undeterred, Marr asked Le Pen about Trump's victory, the future of the EU and whether her racist father might hurt her election prospects. Here's what we learned:
TRUMP'S VICTORY HAS GIVEN HER HOPE
Le Pen is still far from favourite to win next year's election. But if we've learnt anything from recent months, it's that the world is fucked, no-one knows anything and the worst thing that can happen will definitely happen. Le Pen has taken heart from Trump's shock victory and described it as "an additional stone in the building of a new world destined to replace the old one".
In Le Pen's view, the US election result is indicative of a much larger movement which has seen voters rejecting the move towards free trade and freedom of movement. "All these elections are essentially referendums against the unfettered globalisation that has been imposed upon us, has been imposed upon people, and which today has clearly shown its limits," she said.
NEXT YEAR'S ELECTION WILL BE FRAMED AS LE PEN VERSUS 'THE ELITE'
Le Pen adopted the same rhetoric favoured by Trump and Farage and sought to position herself as an outsider, fighting the establishment on behalf of the people. Referring to Trump, Le Pen said: "He made possible what had previously been presented as impossible, so it's really the victory of the people against the elite. If I can draw a parallel with France then I wish that in France also, the people upend the table, the table around which the elite are dividing up what should go to the French people."
THE FRONT NATIONAL STILL HAS AN IMAGE PROBLEM
Since taking over the Front National in 2011, Le Pen has had great success in detoxifying the party she inherited from her father. The two have not always seen eye-to-eye on the party's new direction. Last year, Le Pen was forced to expel her father, who was then the party's honorary president, after he repeated his view that the Holocaust was "a detail of history".
Whether she likes it or not, the issue looks unlikely to go away. Asked about the incident, she replied: "I've explained myself hundreds of times on this topic. I disagree with my father on this issue, I said in the clearest way possible that it was not 'a detail' of the Second World War, but it was in fact the symbol of the Second World War. What else can I add?"
SHE'S CAGEY ABOUT HER VIEWS ON ISLAM
Having been previously outspoken about Islam, describing Muslims in Europe as an "occupation", Le Pen skirted around the issue in today's interview. When Marr asked whether Muslims will have a place in Le Pen's France, she replied: "I don't judge people based on their religion. We judge people based on the way they respect the law, the French constitution, but never based on their religion. Which didn't really answer the question. However, on one point, she was clear. On immigration, she said: "We're not going to welcome any more people. Stop, we're full up."
Watch the interview in full:
RUSSIA AND FRANCE MAY ENJOY A 'SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP'
Much like Trump and Farage, Le Pen said she is keen to build links with Russia, criticising the West's frosty approach. "We have, France and Russia, a very old relationship, and historically a relationship based on friendship," she said. "We had better, if we want a powerful Europe, negotiate with Russia."
She also defended her decision to accept a loan from a Russian bank with ties to Putin: "The shame is that in France, French banks don't want to lend to the National Front because it's a way they have found to try and stifle democracy," she said. "If you do know a bank, by the way, please give me their details and I'll be happy to go to them."
HER ELECTION WOULD MARK THE END OF THE EU
Even more so than an unidentified 'elite', the EU emerged as the main focus of Le Pen's anger. She criticised the "technocrats of the European Union" and predicted that in the wake of her victory," The Brussels wall will have come down just like the Berlin wall came down, and the EU, this oppressive model will have disappeared, but the Europe of free nations will be born. I believe this is what many Europeans are yearning for today." As the interview drew to a close, Marr asked Le Pen: So this is a Europe-wide revolution? "It's a global revolution," she replied.
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