Can Macron bring back the extremes?

Macron supporters' group in Lens

This article is part of a series I wrote between the presidential and legislative elections in France.

It was the defining moment of the campaign. Marine Le Pen had set up Emmanuel Macron, but the soon-to-be president got his own back. Macron was talking to union representatives from a tumble-dryer factory threatened with closure in Amiens, in the north-east of France. Le Pen visited workers on the picket line and told them Macron was showing “contempt” by failing to visit them. Continue reading Can Macron bring back the extremes?

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The hole in the centre ground: how France’s north-east coalfields turned to the populists

old cinema in Lens

This article is part of a series I wrote between the presidential and legislative elections in France.

When you arrive by train into the town of Lens and leave the station, opposite you stands the shell of the old Apollo Cinema (above). It opened in 1932 and in its time it hosted a whole host of contemporary stars such as Yves Montand, Coluche and Josephine Baker. It closed its doors on the 31 December 2000, but remains a dirty reminder of times gone by. Continue reading The hole in the centre ground: how France’s north-east coalfields turned to the populists

No, Marine Le Pen would not be better for Brexit Britain than Emmanuel Macron

Meeting 1er mai 2012 Front National, Paris (45)
This article was published on HuffPost

We could call them red-, white- and blue-tinted spectacles. Since the vote to leave the European Union, there is a tendency in Britain to view European politics through the lens of Brexit. Every vote – from the Austrian presidential election to the Italian constitutional referendum and the Dutch general election – is seen as a vote on the EU.

The same has happened in the French presidential election, where on Sunday far-right Marine Le Pen will face off against centrist Emmanuel Macron in the second round. Le Pen is opposed to the European Union; Macron wants to strengthen it. Continue reading No, Marine Le Pen would not be better for Brexit Britain than Emmanuel Macron

The Macron supporters in Le Pen’s heartland

Emmanuel Macron (3)

“The French ended up turning the table over yesterday, but without breaking the crockery.”

This is how the Editor-in-Chief of one regional newspaper, La Voix du Nord, described the first round of the presidential election, which saw centrist Emmanuel Macron finish first, above far-right Marine Le Pen. He is now widely expected to beat Le Pen in the run-off in a fortnight’s time and become France’s next president. Continue reading The Macron supporters in Le Pen’s heartland

Everything you need to know about the French election

This article was published on The Huffington Post

One of my favourite French words is bouleversement. It means disruption or upheaval. Zidane’s head-butt in the 2006 World Cup final represented bouleversement for the French team. When Parisian bakers were allowed to go on holiday whenever they wanted for the first time in 2015, there was (perhaps) bouleversement as locals found it harder to buy baguettes. Determined to conserve their culture, their language and their 35-hour week, the French see bouleversements everywhere.

On Sunday 23rd April French voters go to the polls for the first-round of the presidential election. There are eleven candidates facing the voters, and – providing no-one reaches the 50 percent threshold – the top two will go through to the second-round a fortnight later.

The current polling is available here.

It has certainly been a campaign of bouleversements. If you have not been following it so far, here is a guide to the main candidates. Continue reading Everything you need to know about the French election

thoughts on the Paris attacks

This article was published on Backbench and won IMPACT Article of the Month 

France starts a new week in a much more jittery state and darker mood than it started the last. It asks itself: why us? While Islamist terrorism is a much worse scourge in countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, in our Western bubble it is France that has suffered most: from Mohammed Merah’s murderous rampage in Toulouse and Montauban in 2012, to the Charlie Hebdo attacks at the beginning of this year, to Friday’s events. Continue reading thoughts on the Paris attacks

Labour’s dilemma

Miliband, Ed (2007)

This article was published on Palatinate

After sudden, brutal, unforeseen disasters we seek answers in order to tell ourselves it will never happen again. We expect to be able to halt nature, that with enough will we can protect ourselves from a callous and uncaring world. After the Labour Party’s defeat, as crushing as it was because it was so unexpected, the temptation is there to prescribe a remedy to cure all ills. The SNP’s tartan tsunami washed away the likes of Douglas Alexander, the party’s election chief. UKIP’s purple tornado swirled across left-behind areas of the country Labour would previously have called its heartlands. Meanwhile, Labour could not thaw through the Tory vote in the South, which remained blue as voters gave the prospect of a Miliband government an icy reception. Now that the battle is lost, the war has broken loose within Labour about how to win lost votes with a shift to the right, or the left; or away from metropolitan values or towards them. Continue reading Labour’s dilemma