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.

Getty
Show Hide image

How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496