The Death of the Conservative Right

images (2)Since the impressively well-organised demonstrations against equal marriage in Paris November and January last, there has been a worrying radicalisation of the anti-equal marriage movement. Around the opponents of this one issue have has developed a heteroclite range of different right-wing extremist groups who are using the issue both to recruit members and to conduct a wider political attack against the new socialist administration.

The development of these movements has been facilitated by the reticence of those on the right to criticise their behaviour. Both the UMP and the National Front have used these new extremist organisations as their frontline in an aggressive new form of opposition to Francois Hollande and his government. How has an impeccably democratic country come to have an opposition which relies on quasi-paramilitary forces in order to advance its criticisms of the government today? Continue reading

Abstaining for the Future

4843652Both Nathalie Koscuisko-Morizet and Bruno Le Maire abstained in the recent vote for the Equal Marriage Bill before the French National Assembly.  Both explained their reasons as being less about equal rights for gay couples (which both profess to support) but more about issues to do with children’s rights and the issue of the use of the word “marriage”.  Both of course are vulnerable to arguments that children’s rights are traditionally only separated from parents’ rights in the case of dangerous parents (ergo, a gay parent is a dangerous parent…) and the “separate but equal” status for gay couples is simply offensive.

But both profess to be the modern, progressive wing of the UMP conservative right.  They have joined forces before, claiming that the confrontation between François Fillon and Jean-François Copé in the battle for the leadership of the UMP would be destructive.  They were of course right.

But the war on the right shows no signs of subsiding.  Given this backdrop of bitter infighting, what are their chances of breaking through and forming the new opposition to the Socialist government? Continue reading

A Party in Agony

On Sunday, members of the centre-right UMP party went to the polls to choose their new party leader. The winner would become the unofficial leader of the opposition for the next five years and a front-runner for the 2017 Presidential campaign. Results were expected Sunday night, but despite a victory speech late that night from underdog and current party chief, Jean-François Copé, on Monday morning the results were still too close to call.

On Monday evening the Party machine announced that Copé had won, but by a razor-thin margin of 0.03% (98 votes). But in light of accusations of the stuffing of ballot boxes on both sides, François Fillon’s threat to go to the courts to have the result overturned and the startling admission by the Party itself that its apparently final tally left off three overseas federations, the Party is still in chaos.

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Impressing the Press

The French press are an impressively febrile bunch.  Like the British press (although they would never admit stooping so low) they love to build up only to knock down.  Nicolas Sarkozy’s roller-coaster ride, from golden boy in 2002 to the devil in 2012, was more extreme than most.  The general impression one has from looking at a broad cross-section of the French press in its coverage of François Hollande is disappointment, and a little boredom.  The new President isn’t sexy or dynamic.  Even his controversial partner has turned out to be better behaved than they had anticipated.

And so this week’s Presidential press conference was a key test for Hollande.  He didn’t simply have to convey his message to those who were watching at home, but to the most important constituency in modern politics: the Presidential corps of journalists.  So how did he do? Continue reading

The Gingrich Maneuver

Newt Gingrich ran for the Republican Party nomination this election cycle, and, despite being tipped for a brief period, eventually ran out of money and ended his campaign.  Before doing so, however, he had become one of the most effective and powerful voices of criticism against Mitt Romney, the eventual unsuccessful candidate.  Gingrich went on to support Romney (of course) but his advocacy for the Republican ticket was forever tainted by the memories of his previous attacks.

The vote for leader of the French conservative opposition UMP party is due this Sunday, and the two candidates are busy ripping chunks out of each other in a much more personal competition that anyone had anticipated.  The front-runner, François Fillon, is trying hard to stay above the mud slinging (his surrogates are trying less hard…), but underdog Jean-François Copé is adopting the Gingrich Maneuver: attack hard and personal.  But the same fate that belied Mr Gingrich could very well reward Mr Copé for his efforts.  Will Copé really damage the UMP in the way Gingrich bruised the GOP, and will the electoral fate be the same? Continue reading

Leadership Elections for the UMP (or the battle for the lowest common denominator)

The two big beasts of the conservative right are battling for the leadership of the UMP, the centre-right party of Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy and the unofficial leader of the opposition.  The party will select its new leader in less than two weeks, and won’t pick its future Presidential candidate for another three years, but already the race is set to define the UMP’s strategy to opposing President Hollande’s administration.

And so far, it has not been an edifying sight. Continue reading