David Fuller's view -
“I think I know why I wasn’t asked to speak,” Le Pen said in a statement on her website. “There’s total panic in a system that is off the rails.”
Also excluded was Jean-Luc Melenchon, the far-left candidate who has promised to review all of France’s commitments to the European Union.
Le Pen’s National Front team was left off the guest list because the discussion was focused on competitiveness within the EU and she is opposed to French membership of the bloc, according to Michel Grandjean, head of the Federation for Mechanical Industries, which represents 629,000 employees and 30,200 companies including trainmaker Alstom SA. Le Pen and Melenchon’s demand for more protection for French companies also ran counter to the focus of the debate, he added.
“Competitiveness implies free trade, which is not an option that Le Pen or Melenchon have supported,” Grandjean said, describing the National Front leader’s response as “sharp.” He said he’s open to discussing protectionist measures with both Le Pen and Melenchon.
One group that was happy to meet the candidate on Tuesday were farmers. Le Pen spent an entire day at the country’s annual trade fair, drawing large crowds everywhere she went as she chatted with cattle and pig farmers. An Ifop study released Feb. 27 said 35 percent of farmers would vote for Le Pen in the first round on April 23, up from 19.5 percent in 2012.
Everyone who seems to know anything about French elections and French polls remains united in the belief that Le Pen will be easily defeated in the second election. Indeed, the various mainstream parties from both the left and right of centre have united to achieve this result.
Nevertheless, Le Pen remains upbeat and confident, as her opening words shown above confirm. Is this because she prefers the fringe role of the party in perpetual opposition? Possibly, and that was her Father’s role, but I doubt it. Marine Le Pen nudged him out of the party years ago and has worked tirelessly to improve its image.
Today, Le Pen is the only political leader of a party in France which represents a genuine protest vote against the EU. That did not matter a few years ago but today, the EU is less popular in France than it was in the UK when the Brexit vote was cast. That may not matter to French businesses mentioned in the article above, but it could be a different story for French voters.
Moreover, even if the pollsters are right and Le Pen is defeated in the second election this May that will not be the end of the story. Anti-EU parties are now a force across Europe as disillusion increases and ‘project fear’ loses its grip.
(See also Monday’s Comment of the Day)
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