One of my favourite writers is the left wing journalist Owen Jones. I don’t always agree with him – he was partly responsible for the two elections of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader for goodness sake – but he is always thought-provoking and articulate. And his simple comments about today’s French presidential election are spot on. In order to restore order in a world gone crazy, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron must defeat the fascist Marine Le Pen.
We know what has happened in the last year. Russia is ruled by a fascist dictator and interferes in elections all over the world. Much of what has really happened will take time to emerge, but emerge it will. Donald Trump is an unstable right wing dictator, too, and in the UK we have taken the fateful decision to leave Europe. And now in France, the possibility exists that an out there fascist will become the president of France.
Britain is done for, at least for the next decade or so, when we either try desperately for a post Brexit agreement which will be far worse than what we have now or we will crash out of the EU and depend on WTO rules which would be a disaster. Le Pen’s election, something actively supported by Britain’s far right, would threaten the rest of the EU. If France rejects fascism, as I expect it to, the EU will survive and regroup.
But the election of Macron will not in itself be enough. There are major reasons why the Front National became so popular in the first place, not least the vast chasm in of inequality and hopelessness many young people feel. And yes, the perceived and actual failure of migrants to integrate into French society. If societies many ills are not properly addressed, the politics of hate in the form of Le Pen’s fascism, will not go away.
It is not dissimilar to the situation that led to Brexit, where whole swathes of the country decided to blame the EU for a society that has no relevance for the lives they lead. Working class people who stand to lose the most from leaving the EU were also the ones who voted most strongly for Brexit. Yes, I know a lot of people voted leave because they don’t like foreign people coming to work here, but many also voted against a society that doesn’t work for them.
Macron offers hope, not just to France but to everyone. Those of us of a centre left persuasion have looked in horror as the world lurches to the right and we see in Macron someone who can stop the rot. In Britain, many of us are politically homeless. With the Tories now now on the far right, occupying the position once held by Ukip and Corbyn’s Labour on the far left fringes, where does someone of the centre go?
I am hoping that the election of Macron gives hope to everyone who would like to see a centre left option in politics. Someone who stands for both strong public services but also supports ambition and entrepreneurship. That person, that party is not here right now, but maybe Macron will show it’s possible. One thing is for sure: the world’s dalliance with the hard right will not end well if we do nothing.