Le Pen asks Guéant to join her party

Marine Le Pen

Interior minister challenged after saying French people ‘no longer feel in their own country’

FRONT National leader Marine Le Pen has asked interior Minister Claude Guéant to join her party after he declared on radio that “French people, in the face of uncontrolled immigration, sometimes feel they are no longer in their own country”.

He was echoing her own phrases over the past few months and she immediately offered him an honorary membership. She has caused outrage by likening the sight of Muslims praying in the street to an “occupation”.

Speaking during an interview on Europe 1, Mr Guéant said French people were seeing “practices forced on them which do not match our rules or our social values”.

Socialist Party MP Laurent Fabius responded by saying that Mr Guéant was “speaking the Front National’s language” despite having been “enmeshed in immigration affairs for the past 10 years”. Party vice-president Harlem Désir hit at Mr Guéant for running after the Front National just days before the cantonal elections.

Ms Le Pen has been among the front-runners in opinion polls in the run-up to next year’s presidential elections; latest polls have shown her going through to the second round against potential socialist candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The polls showed President Sarkozy would be knocked out in the first round, sparking increased talk on immigration from his UMP party. Ms Le Pen commented that “just as the swallow heralds spring, talk of the fight against immigration heralds the elections”.

Ms Le Pen earlier this week visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of illegal immigrants are being detained, and confounded many opponents by declaring: “If I listened to my heart, I would let you board my boat; but my boat is fragile and, if I take you on board, it will sink.”

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