Marine Le Pen On TV she comes across as charming, charismatic, forceful, and passionately patriotic, but the question on everyone’s minds is this, to what extent is she her father’s daughter? Jean Le Pen is a known bigot, and racist, unashamedly so, more often than not getting into hot water with the French moral authorities and the legal system over throwaway remarks, the sort of bigoted comments made in the privacy of people’s homes. In the public arena such comments come at a high cost, in Le Pen’s case, over 180,000 euros for calling the Holocaust a ‘detail’ in history. Like father, like daughter, Marine’s throwaway remarks have landed her no few enemies. MEP’s called for her prosecution over the following remark.
I’m sorry, but some people are very fond of talking about the Second World War and about the occupation, so let’s talk about occupation, because that is what is happening here. There are no tanks, no soldiers, but it is still an occupation, and it weighs on people.
The fact that MEP’s called for her prosecution over what amounts to an over dramatic or badly misguided remark calls into question the validity of the prosecutors power given to MEP’s themselves. It is just this sort of persecutor approach that Le Pen is accused of fostering. You could argue that Le Pen’s use of the word ‘occupation’ was deliberately incendiary, but you could also argue that it is a figure of speech, a way to show the French people’s frustration at their governments lack of immigration control. However, it is hard to separate Marine from her background. Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean Marie Le Pen, erstwhile leader of the French NF, was fined in 2005 and 2008 for “incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence towards a group of people”, on account of statements made about Muslims in France.
Nevertheless, Marine Le Pen’s victory should come as no surprise. She has tapped into the unconscious (though more and more conscious) fear of a Muslim takeover or invasion of Western civilisation. Fear of mosques, and Islamic aggression, fear of overt displays of religiosity, (which Le Pen claims are contrary to French Secularism). There is this sense that Sharia law is creeping its way into our culture, influencing our traditions, and existing side-by-side with our own legal system. Worst of all, it is supported by such institutional oddballs as Rowan Williams, ex-Archbishop of Canterbury for ten years from 2002-2012. Rowan famously opened a debate calling for aspects of Sharia law to be accepted and even integrated within the English legal system.
Le Pen sees this and other movements as an insidious threat to France’s freedoms. She speaks about ‘arrogant’ or ‘aggressive’ behaviour from Northern African immigrants as being no longer acceptable in France. Does this lady have the guts and tenacity lacking here in the UK or is she merely soft pedalling her father’s obnoxious version of ‘democracy’. Occasionally, despite peppering her phrases politely with the word ‘Madame’, Le Pen can show her pugnaciousness towards female interviewers, such as when she wagged a finger and called a UK interviewer ‘disrespectful’.
However, Le Pen’s ‘de-demonisation’ of the French NF (her term) is at least an indicator of her will to change the perception, if not the fundamental ideology of the NF. Given her public political consciousness, which so far seems more subtle and intelligent than that of her father, Le Pen’s chances of gaining ground are not half bad. Posturing aside, there may well be a place for her reformist vision in French and international politics. With a quarter a million immigrants entering the UK each year, (many of them ideologically hostile to the West) this lady’s success and future development within the EU will be closely monitored. The conservatives in Great Britain, as well as Nigel Farage, will be keen to see how she fares in the months ahead. They may well shape their policies around the vision of a lady who appears to be much more than just a chip off the old block.
Yet, Le Pen must see that the shape of the global politics has changed and continues to change. The West’s dependence on Arab oil means that we can never fully abandon our obligation to accept Islamic immigrants within our borders. More pernicious than an imagined Muslim takeover of the West is the continued leakage of home-grown jobs to Asia and other outsourcing destinations so that companies can increase profits and pay less tax. While the immigration issue may be popular and indeed relevant, a true visionary would focus on the West’s cringing dependence on oligarchies like Saudia Arabia for its prime resource, oil. If she truly wants to amend the face of France, and ensure continued democracy and a more balanced society, Le Pen needs to turn her attention away from imagined Islamic takeovers and focus instead on fostering new forms of sustainable energy so that France becomes self-sufficient. The same goes for England.