Will Le Pen miss the ballot?

Sarkozy courts the far-right vote as Le Pen struggles to qualify for the election.

With just a week to go until the deadline, Marine Le Pen is still at least "30 short" of the 500 signatures she needs from local mayors to get onto the ballot for the French presidential election. Her legal bid to allow secret signatures failed last month and elected officials from the mainstream parties are, unsurprisingly, under orders not to approve her candidacy.

Should the National Front candidate fail to get the requisite signatures, it would dramatically change the state of the race. The 17.5 per cent of French voters who support Le Pen would likely transfer their support to Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been shamelessly courting the far-right vote with his demagogic attacks on halal meat and immigration. This would almost certainly hand Sarkozy victory in the first-round. In the last month, he has narrowed François Hollande's lead from six points to just three.

However, barring a dramatic upset, Hollande is still on track to become France's first Socialist President since 1995. The polls continue to show him around 12 points ahead of Sarkozy in the second round. Not even the latter's desperate attempt to dramatise the election by vowing to quit politics if defeated is likely to change this.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.