"It's a funny old world," said my hero, Margaret Thatcher, when she left No. 10 Downing St. for the last time. And it continues to be so, with political outcomes bucking the trend. Trump, Brexit, and now the election of the Emmanuel Macron as president of France, have upset their opponents.
Macron's election is hailed as a victory for the "center" and a thumbs-up for more of the European Union. But it is just an anomaly, because fascinatingly, 80 percent of those over age 65 voted for Macron. Generationally, it's the older people that are sticking to the old European model and the younger people that are rejecting it. Marine Le Pen got 35 percent of the young vote this time. It was the young that rejected the EU and the old that clung on to it. In 2022, I believe she will win, which was always the plan anyway.
Macron does not have a clear mandate, just more than 20 percent voted for him because they liked him and his policies, according to an Ipsos poll. A record 11.5 percent of ballot papers were blank or spoilt, a rejection of both candidates.
Macron, along with the compliant media, pitched himself as a "centrist." Yet, Macron served as economics minister under the hard-left socialist President Francois Hollande, where unemployment rocketed to 10 percent and youth unemployment to 25 percent. The French bankers and entrepreuneurs fled to London to avoid his punitive tax regime. Macron is no "centrist."
Yet, my friend and colleague, Le Pen, was rejected and portrayed as "hard/extreme Right" or Left protectionist by commentators and opponents. You can't be both.
So why didn't the woman who wanted to reduce taxes by 10 percent for the first three tax bands; reduce government by a third; increase police, prison and border force numbers; close her borders to protect her people; and wanted to enforce womens' rights, not get a thumping majority?
It's partly historical: The party of her father is no more, but it still lingers in people's minds. The name of her party, the Front National, also has negative connotations.
She needs to re-brand to win. And the European Right needs to unite to make this happen.
It used to be that the Left was Eurosceptic, but because the Right was more successful at being anti-EU, the Left paradoxically abandoned those ideals, quietly carping on the sidelines but encouraging people to vote for the EU to stop the right. Therefore, the centrist parties, such as Germany's Angela Merkel, have taken hold and own the rhetoric.
But all is not as it seems. Merkel's group in the European Parliament is fractured and before the EU elections in 2019 is the right time for the Right to unite.
There has been a rise of patriotic parties across Europe, those that reflect President Trump's administration: small government, lower taxes, controlled immigration, country before party, hard against radical Islam, anti-globalisation, yet outward looking and patriotic. They want to either drastically limit EU powers, taking back control to the nation state, or leave the EU altogether.
These parties currently form three political groupings in the European Parliament. The European Reformists Conservative group, which contains the British Conservatives, does not cooperate with the other two groups. This is partly due to most of the British Conservative MEPs being pro-EU and not very conservative. However, the sweet justice is that they have just lost their jobs. Once the U.K. leaves the EU, there can be a realignment.
Canadian politics had to go a through a similar process until the Right united under Stephen Harper. It was mooted in the U.K. that UKIP and the Conservatives should join together. It failed because David Cameron, a social democrat, refused to entertain the idea. That led to UKIP being the largest political party in the European Union and leading to Brexit.
Interestingly, last week in the U.K. regional elections there was a uniting of the Right, which saw UKIP voters returning to the Conservative Party. And now with a general election in a few weeks time, polls show UKIP voters are abandoning the party for the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Theresa May. And her appeal is such — more right-wing — that the people who voted in Margaret Thatcher, who left the Conservatives for Tony Blair's Labour, are now returning to the Conservatives, with UKIP broken on the side. With Nigel Farage's job almost done, and a new leader who is presiding over a shambolic infighting party, the Right is uniting under May.
If the Right could unite in the European Parliament, taking Hungary out of Merkel's cozy cartel, the remaining parties of the Conservative's ECR, UKIP's EFDD and my ENF group, there would be enough countries and members to form the third-largest political force in the European Parliament.
For Marine, a re-branding, a new name, Macron's tenuous hold on the presidency (the nasty Left is already rioting on the streets of Paris) and a uniting of the Right, would give her party a new legitimacy and a broader appeal.
Janice Atkinson is an independent member of the European Parliament, representing South East England.
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