Le Pen proposes FN rebrand

A new name, new leadership structure and a major break with the past during far-right party's two-day congress in Lille

Marine Le Pen was re-elected leader of the far-right Front National at the weekend and immediately proposed changing the political party's name to Rassemblement National (National Rally).

Ms Le Pen was the only candidate in the leadership election - and announced the planned name change in a long closing speech at the party's two-day congress in Lille. Members also approved a new leadership structure and a 100-member governing council was named.

Ms Le Pen told delegates the party had moved from its protest group roots into the main opposition party - and predicted that it was now ready to govern under a new name.

The name must now be approved by party members in a postal vote for it to be adopted - though a questionnaire for members at the congress showed support for the change stood at 52%.

The name change is part of a larger makeover that Ms Le Pen hopes will bolster the party's fortunes, after a disappointing personal performance in the second round of last year's presidential elections.

“I have thought and consulted long and hard on the name. It must carry a political message and clearly indicate our political project for France. It must imperatively include the word ‘national’,” she said in her speech.

“It must be more than a project; it must be a rallying cry, a call for those who have France and the French at their heart to join us.”

The two-day conference in Lille, the first since the presidential defeat in May 2017, has been seen as an opportunity to rebrand the party and prepare for next year’s European parliament elections.

The conference also severed the final ties to Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, by stripping him of his honorary president title in his absence after he was barred from attending.

But even as Ms Le Pen continued her attempts to de-toxify the party's image, footage emerged on social media of one junior official in the party - and a leading member of the youth movement - shouting racist abuse at a security guard at a bar.

The official concerned has been suspended pending an internal inquiry, the party said.

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