‘French far-right fight over rural votes with village-idiot policies’

Political parties which promise to protect a mythic Gallic country life are living in a fantasy world, warns columnist Nabila Ramdani

Hunting lobby turned political party, Rural Alliance, may be a rural rival for Marine Le Pen’s party Rassemblement National
Published Last updated

France’s Rural Alliance, the country’s hunting lobby, will be promoting countryside living as a formal political party during next summer’s European Parliament elections.

Beyond farmers with shotguns, candidates include a retired rugby player, a beauty queen, an Olympic archer and even a former bullfighting promoter.

You do not have to approve of their lifestyles, but they have every right to “happy rurality,” said party leader Willy Schraen, as he outlined its goals.

Read more: Hunt federation boss ‘regrets’ people are afraid of hunting in France

Loggerheads with green policies

They want to stand up to ecological measures being enforced by EU bureaucrats, such as cutting nitrogen emissions by shutting down livestock farms.

The Rural Alliance resistance naturally puts it at loggerheads with those who believe green policies are essential as the world faces up to the climate emergency.

In turn, Mr Schraen compares his prospective MEPs and their supporters to a modern version of Asterix and Obelix-style Gauls – ones devoted to “pétanque and barbecues, apéritif and pork.”

They want to be left alone to enjoy their isolated little villages, fields and forests, and to downplay the global problems that threaten the very planet we all live on.

The rhetoric is as darkly witty as it is reactionary.

Marine Le Pen’s party sees Rural Alliance as rivals

The Alliance is a protest movement, and certainly not any kind of serious parliamentary force.

It is this lack of political ambition that makes its vexed relationship with the Rassemblement National (RN) so significant.

The far-right party views the Alliance as a rival, and members are angry that it will steal votes from them, especially as the RN tries to deliver Marine Le Pen as President of France in 2027.

This highlights how amateur the RN really is, and why the party is completely unfit to field a head of state, let alone form a government.

Le Pen pledges to protect country living for rural votes

Like the Alliance, the RN aspires to la France profonde – the “deep France” steeped in ancient legends that have little relevance to the modern world.

They hark back to a land of quaint smallholdings rooted in traditional Gallic provincialism.

The RN gets a very high rural vote because it promotes cultural myths, while combining them with the promise of spendthrift economic nationalism.

Ms Le Pen has pledged to shield labourers, including farmers, from overseas challenges. She calls it “intelligent protectionism that will fight against unfair international competition and turn the economy around.”

Big spending and the redistribution of wealth to the rural working class will, Ms Le Pen further argues, revive a countryside neglected by city slickers, not least of all President Emmanuel Macron.

Read more: Macron’s imaginary ‘average Jojo’ spells disaster for France

Vote winning pledges do not add up

The RN is, of course, built on anti-immigrant xenophobia, and this runs through all of Ms Le Pen’s idiosyncratic ideas.

A believer in what she calls “localism”, she wants to make sure that 80% of meals in schools are sourced from French farms, for example.

Sensitive to rural protest groups such as the gilets jaunes – who spent months rioting around the country as they pushed for lower fuel prices – Ms Le Pen will slash VAT on petrol from 20% to 5.5%.

Socialist-style RN pledges include scrapping income tax for all under-30s. The estimated €4billion cost of this measure is “quite cheap,” said Ms Le Pen, who added: “You get a lot of votes for that.”

France needs more than village-idiot policies

Like the Rural Alliance, she has promised to defy EU-led ecological directives, while offering lukewarm support to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

It all adds up to an economically illiterate and ecologically clueless RN that has far more in common with the Rural Alliance than it would care to admit.

If France intends to remain competitive in the world, it needs dynamic, forward-thinking policies, not village idiot-grade foolishness.

Related articles

Do you agree? Protests and polls undermine real democracy in France

Far-right supporters march in Paris to mark ‘Joan of Arc’ day

6 things to know about new Astérix album now on sale in France