Chart of the day: Sarkozy's comeback

The French president is now leading François Hollande in the first round.

Will the French Socialists once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? For the first time since the election campaign began, a poll has put Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of François Hollande in the first round (see graph). With just over a month to go until the election begins, the French President is on 28.5 per cent, with his Socialist challenger trailing on 27 per cent.


Sarkozy's decision to court the far-right vote with his demagogic attacks on halal meat and immigration appears to have paid dividends. Support for the National Front's Marine Le Pen has slumped to 16 per cent, her lowest poll rating since the start of the year.


Hollande, it's important to note, still has a convicing lead in the second round (see graph) but this has been reduced by two points to nine per cent. After 6 May, the Élysée is still likely to be occupied by a Socialist for the first time since 1995. But it looks like the race will be a lot tighter than we thought.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows again that Brexit means hard Brexit

The Prime Minister's promise of "an end to free movement" is incompatible with single market membership. 

Theresa May, it is commonly said, has told us nothing about Brexit. At today's PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn ran with this line, demanding that May offer "some clarity". In response, as she has before, May stated what has become her defining aim: "an end to free movement". This vow makes a "hard Brexit" (or "chaotic Brexit" as Corbyn called it) all but inevitable. The EU regards the "four freedoms" (goods, capital, services and people) as indivisible and will not grant the UK an exemption. The risk of empowering eurosceptics elsewhere is too great. Only at the cost of leaving the single market will the UK regain control of immigration.

May sought to open up a dividing line by declaring that "the Labour Party wants to continue with free movement" (it has refused to rule out its continuation). "I want to deliver on the will of the British people, he is trying to frustrate the British people," she said. The problem is determining what the people's will is. Though polls show voters want control of free movement, they also show they want to maintain single market membership. It is not only Boris Johnson who is pro-having cake and pro-eating it. 

Corbyn later revealed that he had been "consulting the great philosophers" as to the meaning of Brexit (a possible explanation for the non-mention of Heathrow, Zac Goldsmith's resignation and May's Goldman Sachs speech). "All I can come up with is Baldrick, who says our cunning plan is to have no plan," he quipped. Without missing a beat, May replied: "I'm interested that [he] chose Baldrick, of course the actor playing Baldrick was a member of the Labour Party, as I recall." (Tony Robinson, a Corbyn critic ("crap leader"), later tweeted that he still is one). "We're going to deliver the best possible deal in goods and services and we're going to deliver an end to free movement," May continued. The problem for her is that the latter aim means that the "best possible deal" may be a long way from the best. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.