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European Elections 2024

European election didn’t change much but triggered a crucial vote in France

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By Denis MacShane

The European Parliament elections with their low turn outs, unknown politicians, and use as a protest vote against incumbent governments have exploded into life with the decision of President Macron to dissolve the French Parliament.

In effect he is holding a plebiscite asking the French people and indirectly the rest of Europe if its future is a return to the politics of hate, nationalism, xenophobia which had its apogee in the 1930s.

Britain has already decided, if polls are to be believed, that the anti-European English nationalism of the Brexit Tories is not what the four nations of the UK any more trust or want.

If it were not for Macron’s bombshell the result of the European Parliament elections would have lived down to expectations

The turnout was low barely 50 per cent. 

The Socialists did well in Spain, the pro-Europeans won in Poland, the Greens slumped and the Liberal’s biggest party is headed by Macron .. who lost badly. 

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The far right won just nine more seats in a Parliament of 720 MEPs.

There is no hard Right take over of Europe.

Indeed, the dominant centre right European People’s Party, EPP, won an extra eight lseats. 

David Cameron walked out of the EPP in 2009 as he appeased the growing English nationalist xenophobe wing of his Tory Party which is now in such a sorry state.

Marine Le Pen has been hovering at over 30 percent in the polls for more than a year and that vote was confirmed on Sunday.

But overall the composition of the European Parliament has not dramatically changed with more social democratic MEPs elected than far right ones.

I spoke to President Macron in the Elysée Palace in April and he is fully informed on the likely arrival of a stable single party British government which will want to turn the page on the chaos and contradictions of Brexit-era Tory ideology.

In calling new Parliamentary elections Macron is in effect inviting French politics to grow up.

French political parties are either single issue ones like Les Verts, the Greens, or like the Socialists and Gaullists who alternated in government between 1980-2016 and have split into factions like our Tories and Reformers or the anti-EU hard Left Jeremy Corbyn factionalists who kept Labour in opposition after 2015.


Listening to the different “moi, moi, moi” lefts and rights on French radio and TV tearing lumps out of each other it is unlikely they will find unity to stop Marine Pen winning a majority three days after Sir Keir Starmer enters Downing Street.


Yet the French president is the chief executive of France. 

No law can be passed without his approval. The 28 year old Jordan Bardellais is Marine Le Pen’s pet favourite who is young, good-looking, and says absolutely nothing except the vaguest generalities.

He was an MEP who never turned up. 

He appears on French TV like every French woman of Marine Le Pen’s age favourite grandson - “Comme il est beau!”

Like maybe our Chris Philp (a British Minister of State for Crime), Jordan wouldn’t last two minutes at the hands of Emma Barnett or Cathy Newman (British TV broadcasters)

The French expect their politicians to be forensic intellectuals and Bardella was chosen precisely because he is no challenge to Marine Le Pen.

The European Far Right is now dividing over EU finance and subsidies to voters, to immigrants.

Marine Le Pen has called for the expulsion of German far rightists from EU wide political groups. She also is furious with her political sister Giorgia Meloni’s policy of pushing undocumented asylum seekers who land in Italy across the border into France.

There are also bitter divisions over the support from Vladimir Putin’s Fifth Column in the EU headed by the Hungarian and Slovakian anti EU rightist leaders Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, the Dutch Geert Wilders or Slovakia’s Robert Fico.

In short the next three years will see the European Far Right splitting and uncertain in their alliances

Macron cannot stand again in 2027. 

So there is time to see if new leaders can emerge from the democratic mainstream. 

Raphäel Glucksmann has made a strong impression as a young Socialist politician who took the Socialists to a whisker of overtaking Macron’s liberals

Macron has only himself to blame. 

Since 2017 when he arrived in the Elysée he has imposed a Davos elite ultra liberaleconomic programme on France that created too many losers who felt left behind.

They were tempted by the Le Pen demagogy that it was all the fault of immigrants or Muslims or EU officials.

The next three years will show if the old 1930s demagogy works or if the French political class can renew itself and speak to and for all of France.

* Denis MacShane is the former UK Minister of Europe who has lived and worked in France and wrote the first biography in English of the French Socialist president, François Mitterrand.

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