The main television event last night – the live debate between France’s two presidential hopeful : Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. Such events are normally polite, even sedate affairs with each candidate outlining his or her policy, whilst the other thoughtfully looks on before launching a counter attack. When the debate gets “heated”, candidates may interrupt each other and occasionally the whole thing can descend into verbal fisticuffs. Last night though, the gloves were off from the beginning with the venomous and viperous Marine Le Pen in jugular form, interrupting Emmanuel Macron on every statement and all the while “welcoming” his policies with a poisonous and mocking smile.
Brutal, noisy, chaotic even violent – some of the adjectives used in this morning’s press to qualify the proceedings, and as for the TV journalists there to “mediate” the event, they were at best incompetent and at worst helpless, unable to bring calm and restore order as both candidates “ripped” into each other in a confusing cacophony.
And Madame Le Pen – short on policy and detail, her only strategy was to attack and try to discredit Emmanuel Macron. Her TV tactics reminiscent of a street battle – she wouldn’t have been out of place wearing a brown shirt.
She claims that she can give France the “strong leadership” it needs, but if she heads to the European negotiating table with such a table thumping, baton-wielding approach, no one will listen.
The more I watched Marine Le Pen, the more I got this creeping, flesh-crawling feeling that this woman truly is a danger for democracy and as a President her mandate would be one of incompetence, overspend and violence. It was Emmanuel Macron who pronounced the fatal words “civil war” – “Madame Le Pen, if you are elected there will be a civil war.” It seems therefore that my apocalyptic musings on a Le Pen presidency are not so far from expectations.
Mr Macron’s “civil war” comment came as Madame Le Pen outlined her policy on terrorism and national security, which was no more than a long islamophobic, xenophobic tirade.
Madame Le Pen has done herself no favours with her performance last night. Self confessed, national Front supporters at work of course lauded Madame Le Pen and found her TV antics “outstanding”
I couldn’t really say that there was a “winner” in this debate; Contrary to pre-debate speculation on Emmanuel Macron’s ability to take on Marine Le Pen, the Front National leader did not “wipe the floor” with Monsieur Macron – he was polite and calm but firm in the face of the Le Pen onslaught, we can say he “survived” and perhaps even gained in credibility as Madame Le Pen’s ebbed away with every attack she made.
So, can Macron win it? – and here we come to the weird and wonderful strategies of French ractical voting. Heard on a radio phone in show this lunchtime, one “leftwing” caller says – “I’ll vote Le Pen knowing full well that she’ll lose, but I don’t want to vote Macron because I don’t want him to win with a landslide – a slim margin is enough; the bigger his victory margin and the more empowered he will feel to impliment his brand of economic liberalism.” WHAT????
But it has been a common theme in this last week for the far left to come out and say they’ll vote Le Pen. Madame Le Pen also has support from radical Moslem groups – I suppose the whole idea being that once she is in power, then we have a real enemy and a real reason to rise up (So I have heard) – Extremists just love extremists – woe betide if we get a sensible social democratic president. O tnis note, a staggering 23% of those who voted for Jean-Luc Melenchon and his far left party “Insoumise”, have said that they will be voting Le Pen.
The vote Le Pen for a small Macron margin is frankly a bonkers strategy, as mad as the idea of lodging a protest vote in the first round and then voting for your favourite candidate afterwards.
All election coverage in France ceases on Friday. Saturday is a moment of introspection, soul-searching and decision-making, Sunday we’re off to the polls, and hot on the heals of the presidential elections, the parliamentary elections, only a month away. The French aligned all their elections a few years back to stop the possibility of “cohabitation”. Parliamentary elections were always two years after the Presidentials, which meant if President or Parliament were of different political persuasions, they just spent their time fighting and blocking each other.
I’l lquite happlily follow Barak Obama’s and endorse Macron, the other choice is just far too dangerous to take the risk.