Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric is convincing French Jews and gays to trust the Front National
A report in today’s Times suggests that French Jews and gays are ready to discard their long-standing distrust for the Far Right and vote for the Front National. In January, Rachel Halliburton described how Marine Le Pen’s public condemnation of anti-Semitism had won her votes, as had her insistence that the party was the only one that defends secularity and democracy against Islamisation. A key part of her strategy has been to use the threat of radical Islam to court the sort of people that the far right has traditionally persecuted, including the gay community and the Jewish community.
That gay men now feel comfortable with the Front National is the result of a deliberate effort by its leader, Marine Le Pen, who has pursued a programme of detoxification (the French term is ‘de-diabolisation’) ever since she took control of the party in 2011.
Her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who led the FN from its founding in 1972 until Marine took over, described homosexuality as a ‘biological and social anomaly’. In the 1980s he argued that all individuals with Aids should be kept in isolation, and in the 1990s was still declaring that ‘There are no queens in the National Front.’
By contrast, Marine has worked hard to expand the FN’s membership beyond obvious bigots, racists and skinheads. She has publicly condemned anti-Semitism and insists that, far from being racist, her party is the only one that defends secularity and democracy against Islamisation.
A key part of this strategy is using the Islamist threat to court the sort of people that the far right has traditionally persecuted. It’s working. In the 2012 presidential elections, Le Pen won 13.5 per cent of the Jewish vote. A surprising enough statistic, but her appeal to gay activists has created even more waves. Just before Christmas, her deputy Florian Philippot was outed as gay by Closer: the same magazine that exposed Hollande’s affair with Julie Gayet. Around the same time, Le Pen appointed a new adviser: Sébastien Chenu, one of the founders of the activist organisation GayLib. FN traditionalists complained loudly that their party was being taken over by a gay cabal. (Those complaining included Marine’s 25-year-old niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, an MP and a rising star in the party.)