On Sunday, in a speech launching her presidential campaign, Front National leader Marine Le Pen praised the UK for voting to leave the European Union. It didn’t come as a surprise — ever since the historic British vote on 23 June, she has been trying to commandeer the moral authority of Brexit to bolster her bid to be president of France.
In the speech, given in Lyon, Le Pen confirmed that she would hold a referendum on EU membership within six months should she be elected president. She said she wants to see a sovereign France, and to scrap the euro in favour of returning to the franc. This is likely to be a popular move: a poll last year showed that 53 per cent of French people are in favour of holding such a referendum.
Le Pen believes that the surprise results in both Britain’s EU referendum and the US presidential election are part of the same political sea-change that might catapult her to the Elysee Palace come May. ‘The wind of history has turned and it will carry us to the summit’, she said.
As we have argued on spiked, there are undoubted similarities between Brits voting against the EU and large numbers of Americans rejecting Hillary and establishment politics. Both signified a desire to upset the status quo and try something different in politics. However, beyond this, it is a gross distortion of the Brexit vote, of the Brexit sentiment, to compare it directly to the election of the fluorescent-haired demagogue now in-situ in the White House, never mind to the potential election of the inward-looking, far-right authoritarian Le Pen.
It is simply wrong to conflate British people’s decision to leave the EU with a normal political vote for a party or a leader. We were not voting for any politician. The vote to leave the EU was not a vote for Nigel Farage of UKIP, no matter what the Remainer sections of the press might say. Indeed, where 17.4million people voted Leave, fewer than four million voted for UKIP at the 2015 General Election. Following the referendum, Farage has largely disappeared from the political stage (he’s headed into the media). The EU referendum was not about putting someone into power, it wasn’t about political personalities — it was a vote for a new way of doing politics, for greater democratic control.