Francois Fillon
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Despite everything, François Fillon is still in contention - just

The discredited candidate of the conservative mainstream is damaged, but his presidential prospects aren't dead yet. 

In the French presidential race, all of the excitement is coming from the left. Emmanuel Macron runs as neither of the left or the right but the reality is that much of his programme, not to mention his highest profile supporters, comes from the centre and centre-left. Benoît Hamon is struggling in the polls but has articulated a fresh programme jampacked with new ideas. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s surge has raised the exciting prospect that far from the all-right affair that many predicted the second round of the French presidential contest to be, it could yet be a contest between the left and centre.

But despite that, the winner might be the unnoticed and increasingly derided candidate of the mainstream right, François Fillon. Fillon, anointed as the presumptive President after his surprise triumph over Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy, has seen his standing in the opinion polls slide as a result of the “Penelopegate” scandal. He is accused of paying his wife, Penelope, to work as his assistant, while she in fact remained at home and did no work at all. Although, as in the United Kingdom, French politicians are not prohibited from hiring their relatives, they are prohibited from paying their relatives if they are not working.

The continued investigation into Fillon’s standing has seen him buffeted by speculation that he might stand down for another candidate of the right. But now that the 17 March filing date has come and gone, the 11 candidates on the ballot are on the ballot. The Republicans’  hope of retaking the Presidency now rest on Fillon, for good or for ill.

But for all Fillon’s well-advertised problems, his support has proved remarkably resilient. He is still consistently polling 18-20 per cent in much polls, never quite pulling out of contention for the top two entirely. (Under the rules of France’s electoral system, if one of the candidates cannot get more than half of the vote in the first round, the top two go through to a second round a week later.)

All of which means that if Marine Le Pen’s insistence that France was not responsible for the rounding up of Parisian Jews during the Second World War, or Emmanuel Macron’s inexperience on a long campaign see them falling back in the polls, Fillon might yet struggle through.

And in a way, the outcome most in keeping with the shocks of last year would be for Fillon – discredited, scandal-ridden, shameless – to somehow win despite it all.

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.

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Casting the Brexit movie that is definitely real and will totally happen

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our screens, or just Farage's vivid imagination.

Hollywood is planning to take on the farcical antics of Nigel Farage et al during the UK referendum, according to rumours (some suspect planted by a starstruck Brexiteer). 

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our big or small screens, a DVD, or just Farage's vivid imagination, but either way here are our picks for casting the Hollywood adaptation.

Nigel Farage: Jim Carrey

The 2018 return of Alan Partridge as "the voice of hard Brexit" makes Steve Coogan the obvious choice. Yet Carrey's portrayal of the laughable yet pure evil Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events makes him a serious contender for this role. 

Boris Johnson: Gerard Depardieu

Stick a blonde wig on him and the French acting royalty is almost the spitting image of our own European aristocrat. He has also evidently already mastered the look of pure shock necessary for the final scene of the movie - in which the Leave campaign is victorious.

Arron Banks: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais not only resembles Ukip donor Arron Banks, but has a signature shifty face perfect for the scene where the other Brexiteers ask him what is the actual plan. 

Gerry Gunster: Anthony Lapaglia

The Bad Boys of Brexit will reportedly be told from the perspective of the US strategist turned Brexit referendum expert Gerry Gunster. Thanks to recurring roles in both the comedy stalwart Frasier, and the US crime drama Without a Trace, Anthony Lapaglia is versatile enough to do funny as well as serious, a perfect mix for a story that lurches from tragedy to farce. Also, they have the same cunning eyes.

Douglas Carswell: Mark Gatiss

The resemblance is uncanny.

David Cameron: Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott is widely known for his portrayal of Moriarty in Sherlock, where he indulges in elaborate, but nationally destructive strategy games. The actor also excels in a look of misplaced confidence that David Cameron wore all the way up to the referendum. Not to mention, his forehead is just as shiny. He'll have to drink a lot of Bollinger to gain that Cameron-esque puppy fat though. 

Kate Hoey: Judi Dench

Although this casting would ruin the image of the much beloved national treasure that is Judi Dench, if anyone can pull off being the face of Labour Leave, the incredible actress can.