Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s proclamation of support for Mme Le Pen comes ahead of the second round of the French presidential elections, due to take place on Sunday, in which Le Pen will face off against centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Writing in The Telegraph, Farage admitted that under Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen: “… the party’s roots were deep in Vichy and I believed anti-Semitism was embedded in its DNA”. However Farage now states that daughter Marine, who became the Front National (FN) leader in 2011, “wanted the FN to be more like UKIP than the BNP.”
“There is nothing she has said in this entire election campaign that I find unreasonable or extreme. Instead, she has a more rational line on Islam than many Eurosceptic parties across the Continent,” he said.
Farage claimed that his support for Le Pen stems from her Euroscepticism. “She will destroy the EU,” said Farage, and “take much pressure off our negotiations.”
Cas Mudde, a leading scholar of populism, instead points out that she is the “the unofficial leader of the European radical right.”
Farage’s support comes despite UKIP’s prior refusal to publicly associate with Le Pen’s party. As UKIP leader, Farage had repeatedly ruled out an alliance with the FN in the European Parliament due to “prejudice and antisemitism” rife within the party.
“We’ve got to find a group of people that we think are part of our political family with views that are consistent with classical liberal democracy,” Farage said in 2014.
However the record of both UKIP and Farage suggests that their rejection of the FN, a party with fascist roots, is due more to image than principle.
Away from the watching eye of the British public UKIP has allied itself with an assortment of lesser-known, far-right European groups. These include extreme, Holocaust denying elements in the European Parliament in order to secure lucrative EU funding. HOPE not hate has recently drew attention to the close ties between current UKIP leader Paul Nuttall and the Sweden Democrats (SD), a nationalist, anti-immigrant group which had to ban supporters wearing Nazi uniforms to its meetings in 1996.
Farage has spent months hinting at his support for Le Pen, describing her as “brilliant” in November and providing her a long, friendly interview on LBC radio in March. Moreover, Leave.EU, the unofficial, anti-immigration Referendum campaign run by former UKIP donor Arron Banks and headed by Farage, has for some time been openly proselytising for Le Pen.
HOPE not hate expects Farage to join Banks’ new far-right venture, The Patriotic Alliance, now slated to launch in autumn.
“If she doesn’t win this year, she will win in 2022,” wrote Nigel Farage, indicating that he is lining himself up for a long-term relationship with the French far right.
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