Front National’s intellectual fig leaf blows away as Philippot resigns

The vice-president of the far-right party was architect of party’s ‘dédiabolisation’ strategy

Marine Le Pen, French National Front leader, flanked by former vice-president Florian Philippot. Photograph: Charles Platiau/File Photo/Reuters

Marine Le Pen, French National Front leader, flanked by former vice-president Florian Philippot. Photograph: Charles Platiau/File Photo/Reuters

 

The Front National suffered another setback on Wednesday with the resignation of Florian Philippot, a vice president of the far-right party and the architect of its strategy of dédiabolisation.

Philippot became an adviser to Marine Le Pen in 2009. She took over from her father, Jean-Marie, in 2011. Philippot’s “sovereignist”, anti-EU line dominated Front National policy.

Philippot, a graduate of the elite École Nationale d’Administration, came from an offshoot of the Socialist Party and endowed the Front National with a fig leaf of intellectualism and concern for social causes.

Party old-timers rejected Philippot, who is gay. Jean-Marie Le Pen denounced the “gay lobby” surrounding his daughter. In 2015 Philippot engineered the expulsion of Le Pen père from the party he founded.

“The historic Front National is immensely relieved at Philippot’s departure,” said Prof Pascal Perrineau, a leading expert on the Front National. He predicted the party would now revert to its original issues: immigration, Islam and security.

The elder Le Pen (89), told Le Figaro, “Florian Philippot’s influence made the party lose its way. A cause of weakness has disappeared. I am delighted.”

Disastrous TV debate

After a disastrous performance in a televised debate, Marine Le Pen lost the second round of the presidential election to Emmanuel Macron, by a score of 33.9 per cent to 66.1 per cent for Macron. The Front National performed poorly in subsequent parliamentary elections. Marion Maréchal Le Pen, Ms Le Pen’s popular niece and the “right leg” of the party, withdrew from politics. Philippot was considered the party’s “left leg”. Now he too is gone.

Despite defeat, Ms Le Pen won 10,640,000 votes on May 7th, the highest score ever for the extreme right-wing party. “The Front National’s capacity for self-criticism is close to zero,” Perrineau said. “So they’ve been looking for a scapegoat.”

Philippot’s creation of his own association, called Les Patriotes, last May became a pretext for driving him out of the party.

Front National stalwarts convinced themselves that Le Pen’s promise to pull out of the euro lay behind her defeat, when the real cause was Le Pen herself. She did not prepare properly for the debate with Macron, and was debilitated by an ophthalmic migraine on the day.

Ms Le Pen’s companion Louis Aliot, who is also a Front National vice president, lashed out at Philippot on Twitter, calling him a “media hot air balloon” and “an arrogant, vain, sectarian extremist who tried to muzzle our freedom to debate.”