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Could the youth of Britain and France swing to the far right in big numbers?

By Aurelien Mondon, University of Bath and Benjamin Bowman, University of Bath

Participation is commonly viewed as the cornerstone of liberal democracy. In Europe, however, the decades since the 1980s have been marked by falling participation and increased disillusionment with institutional politics. These trends are most striking among young people – those within the rough boundaries of 15 to 25 years old – an electoral demographic increasingly alienated by mainstream politics.

Meanwhile, this distrust and disillusionment in older voters has precipitated the resurgence of populist anti-immigration parties across Europe. By positioning themselves beyond the left/right divide, against the establishment, some of these parties have mobilised a growing part of the discontented. In this context, the young vote appears as a natural target for the protest parties on the right, but is it likely to follow their call?

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The Front National in the Twenty-First Century: From Pariah to Republican Democratic Contender?

Mondon, Aurelien. 2014. “The Front National in the Twenty-First Century: From Pariah to Republican Democratic Contender?” Modern & Contemporary France:1-20. doi: 10.1080/09639489.2013.872093.

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The impressive result obtained by Marine Le Pen in the 2012 presidential elections has raised many questions regarding her ability to break the glass ceiling which many had thought unreachable for the Front National (FN). For some, this progression in the polls was a consequence of the softening of the discourse of the party and Le Pen moving away from her father’s more radical stance. However, the fact that this rise came after five years of Sarkozist presidency should not be underestimated, and the context following Sarkozy’s 2007 election can be seen as partly responsible for the FN reaching new heights. What this article will argue is that the new status acquired by the FN in 2012 was dramatically facilitated by the campaign by the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), which continued the legitimisation of the Le Pens’ party rhetoric and allowed it to enter the selective category of respectable, ‘democratic’ and ‘republican’ parties. To highlight this development, this article will focus on three themes: the exaggerated state of crisis, the use of populism and the vilification of Islam through the use of neo-racist rhetoric by both the UMP and the FN.
Les résultats impressionnants obtenus par Marine Le Pen lors de l’élection présidentielle de 2012 ont démontré que le Front National (FN) avait dépassé un nouveau seuil. Pour certains, cette progression était le résultat du processus de modération et du délaissement des techniques plus radicales de Jean-Marie Le Pen. Bien que la stratégie de Marine Le Pen fût un succès, les cinq années de présidence sarkoziste ont également joué un rôle prépondérant dans la poussée électorale du FN. Cet article va montrer que la nouvelle stature du FN a en fait été facilitée par la campagne de l’Union pour une Mouvement Populaire (UMP), qui a poursuivi sa légitimation du parti des Le Pen, et lui a permis de rentrer dans la cour des partis ‘démocratiques’ et ‘républicains’. Pour étudier ce développement, cet article va se concentrer sur trois thèmes de campagne déterminants: un sentiment de crise exagéré, une utilisation abusive du populisme, et la stigmatisation de l’Islam grâce à une rhétorique néo-raciste.

The French Front National is still an extreme right-wing party

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National in France, recently threatened to sue anyone who labelled her party as “extreme right”. This is interesting in many respects, most notably because it demonstrates the new-found confidence of a party increasingly portrayed as a normal, “democratic”, “republican” contender in the French political landscape.

Today, the Le Pens’ legitimisation strategy is commonly promoted beyond the party. It is implicitly accepted within mainstream politics and the media, but also increasingly within sections of academia – despite a large body of evidence suggesting the need for caution.

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‘Fair dinkum’ politics or the end of politics? (intro)

‘Common sense’ is usually believed to be just that: common sense. I have it, you have it, everyone has it. Or more precisely, only those we disagree with, and therefore many of our politicians, seem to lack it. It’s just the way things should be, or how they used to be ‘back in the good old days’. Defining common sense, however, is not that simple. Most of us will claim unconvincingly that everyone knows what it is; that it is something so obvious that it does not need to be defined. If pushed, many would probably say that it is merely the natural or logical state of things, the answer we all know deep down is true. But do we really? Is one’s common sense the same as one’s neighbours’, countrymen’s and women’s or political opponents’? Is one’s common sense born out of nature, logic, or any other objective force; does it reflect our own prejudices and deep-seated beliefs; or is it created, theorised and imposed by various groups over others? In academic circles, the concept of common sense is often linked to that of hegemony, or as Peter Thomas defined it, ‘a strategy aiming at the production of consent, as opposed to coercion’. For Thomas, drawing on the works of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, ‘hegemony involves a leading social group securing the (active or passive) consent of other social strata rather than unilaterally imposing its decrees upon unwilling “subjects”’. It is akin to what Rancière and others have called the politics of consensus: common sense is created when a group in society imposes its vision as one that cannot be challenged.
In Australia, as elsewhere, ‘common sense’ has become an essential political prize in the liberal democratic struggle. Our politicians are often accused, or accuse each other, of acting ‘non-sensically’, of misunderstanding the people’s general will, of being ‘out of touch’. Alternatively, politicians often claim to represent the ‘practical’ or ‘sensible’ viewpoints of the majority and give weight to such claims through the use of colloquialisms. Tony Abbott, for example, used the term ‘fair dinkum’ eight times in a memorable debate against Julia Gillard in 2010, and more recently declared, against evidence, that ‘the vast majority of asylum seekers who arrive by boat are not fair dinkum refugees’. Another favourite among politicians is a ‘fair go’. Yet what is a ‘fair go’? Can we assume that the most left-wing Labor supporter will agree with an ardent Liberal’s conception? That a Queenslander’s definition will be the same as that of a Victorian? That a farmer’s will resemble that of a pundit? That an asylum seeker will be on the same wavelength as a One Nation supporter?


Mondon, A. (2013) ‘Fair dinkum politics or the death of politics’, in Tavan, G. (ed.) State of the Nation: Essays for Robert Manne. Melbourne: Black Inc.

Radical Nationalist movements in Europe

According to a report published by Konrad Adenauer foundation in Germany, Europe’s right-wing and national populist parties are on the upswing, even despite some recent electoral setbacks. “ They have entered parliaments across Europe and some parties are even participating in national governments. For all actors involved in EU politics, these developments should be taken seriously”.

How great are the risks, linked to populist parties’ rise, and what needs to be done to reduce them?

We are discussing these and other issues with our guest speakers Dr. Aurélien Mondon of the University of Bath and Lila Caballero, head of projects at Counterpoint research center.

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Voting in a dystopian age – when democracy bites its tail

On a recent research trip to Australia, I was not surprised to gauge a rather depressed mood as the election was announced and campaigning began. Of course, I would not claim that the people I talked to are either representative of the Australian electorate as a whole, or numerous enough to provide a convincing account of the situation (can any poll claim to represent the population?), but it brought a few interesting points to my mind.

On the whole, my friends and colleagues (most of whom would be described by the Australian Murdoch press as ‘latte sipping bleeding hearts’) are feeling disheartened by the choice they will have to make on the 7th of September. Yet they cannot just forget about the election, for Australia is one of the few countries where voting is compulsory and where a vocal affirmation of your refusal to vote could land you a fine at best, and at worst possibly in jail, if you tried to convince others to reflect on the system. Coming from a place where voting is not compulsory, this law has always made me uneasy. Many Australians argue that it helps democracy inasmuch as it forces people to take part in today’s most potent democratic ritual. If they were not threatened by fines, wouldn’t many Australians prefer to stay at home or to do something else, victims of what Senator Payne described ‘apathy and indolence’ when compulsory voting was passed in 1924? Some would even add that in the current global climate, where voting is plummeting in many western countries because of the widespread feelings of disillusionment and powerlessness within the electorate, compulsory voting forces the people to engage with politics.
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Populism or the fear of democracy

What democracy really means is the capacity to do things. While the governing elite has increasingly borrowed populist rhetoric from the extreme right to win elections, it has also used the growth of populism to discredit the concept of ‘the people’ and redefine the meaning of democracy.

A rally for Marine Le Pen in Montpellier, France. Demotix/Xavier Malafosse.

As exemplified in the recent debate between Philippe Marlière and Catherine Fieschi, populism is a highly contentious concept, and yet one which cannot be avoided when discussing contemporary politics in Europe.

More interesting is that this debate brings to light a prominent mindset in contemporary academia and policy making, in which ‘politics’ tends to be limited to its consensual liberal ‘moderate’ form. There is little doubt that, at least before Marlière’s response, Fieschi’s argument won over many of the readers of a platform like openDemocracy. However, while reassuring, such an argument can easily lead down a slippery slope towards a patronising view of the ‘people’ and their very real problems, insecurities and hopes for change, however misguided.
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Far-right earthquake could be bigger than 2002 for France – with Nicholas Startin

First collaboration with Nicholas Startin on the Conversation

For followers of British politics the narrative is familiar: populist right-wing party champions withdrawal from the European Union and a harder line on immigration and suddenly start pulling out remarkable by-election results. It has worked here for Nigel Farage and UKIP, while in France, a similar message is paying dividends for Marine Le Pen and her Front National.

The result of the Villeneuve-sur-Lot by-election in south west France a week ago sent shock-waves through the French political system as FN polled 46.24% in the second round run-off.

The by-election in the disgraced former French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac’s seat only served to underline the onward march of the FN and to confirm its leader Marine Le Pen as a significant challenger in the 2017 Presidential elections on the back of her 18% score in last year’s contest.
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Can fascism return? – Interview on Voice of Russia

Burning Point – Fascism Revisited

Yekaterina Kudashkina and Ian Sumter


Today we are looking into the issue of Nazism. 68 years ago the Nazi armies of Europe were defeated and the Nazi Government of Germany was overthrown. A long occupation and de-Nazification of the country was accompanied by an international resolve to pass new laws and create new institutions to ensure that such a phenomenon would never return. However, in recent years openly far-right and Nazi-oriented groups have arisen across Europe.

How serious a threat do they represent? Why have they come back to life now? And are there the lessons from history being forgotten?

We are discussing these and other issues with our guest speakers Ammon Cheskin of the University of Glasgow, Dr Aurélien Mondon, lecturer in French Studies at the University of Bath, Fabian Virchow – NYU Global Scholars Program Visitor Professor.
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French reactionary hypocrisy – the hijab, gay marriage and secularism

In the lead-up to the vote on same-sex marriage in France, protesters held their ‘gallant last stand’ against equality. While the law was passed, these protests have made clear the hypocritical argument of a secular France that is ‘blind to all religions’.

Since the Revolution of 1789, France has claimed with great pride to be the country of secularism. It is true that the revolutionaries, through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and even the Terror, placed a strong emphasis on freedom of religion to liberate the country from the reactionary and oppressive influence of the Church. In 1905, the third Republic anchored secularism deeper into French political life with a law declaring that ‘the Republic ensures freedom of conscience. It guarantees freedom of worship limited only by […] rules in the interest of public order’.
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Nicolas Sarkozy’s Legitimisation of the Front National – Background and Perspectives

Many commentators saw in the ‘poor’ result achieved by Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2007 presidential elections the demise of the Front National. However, when asked by a journalist whether it was the end of her father’s political career, Marine Le Pen replied smiling: ‘I don’t think so. In any case, this is the victory of his ideas!’[i] In these question and answer lie the whole story of the Front National and its impact on mainstream politics in the past two decades. First, Le Pen’s defeat was exaggerated, the same way his victory had in 2002. In what was seen as the demise of the Front National, Le Pen managed to obtain almost 4 million votes despite the candidature of far right Philippe de Villiers and still ranked fourth in the tally. Furthermore, that Le Pen managed to retain these votes despite the adverse context was a victory in itself. The five years between the 2002 and 2007 presidential elections had indeed led to drastic changes in the way politics was done in France.

Continue reading Nicolas Sarkozy’s Legitimisation of the Front National – Background and Perspectives

A brown spectre is haunting Europe

I recently wrote about how the extreme right has become mainstream in France, and how the French have cast off their disgust of the politics offered by a party founded by neo-fascists. Since, events have shown that this trend is far from restricted to France.

It has indeed become fashionable for successful far-right politicians to tour the western world to share their radical solutions to the problems in our society. In the midst of an on-going economic crisis, it has become ever clearer to the right that the solution is to target Islam; some are willing to invite these politicians all the way to Australia to spread the word.

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Mainstreaming the extreme right in Australia: Breaking away from the multicultural consensus

This is the written version of a paper given at the Conference in Honour of Robert Manne: Thinking for Yourself on the 1st of March 2013.

Unlike many of its western counterparts, Australia has been spared powerful surges of the extreme right throughout its history. While the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw European democracies threatened time and time again by movements relying on ethno-exclusivism and thriving on capitalist crises, Australia suffered only relatively weak extreme right bursts whose impact remained marginal.

Even the rise of the One Nation Party in 1996, as sudden as it was impressive, showed the limits in the Australian context for organisations which have proved long-lasting in Europe.Pauline Hanson’s party proved little more than a flash in the pan, a weak and amateurish attempt to ride a growing wave of discontent, and ultimately failed to take root in the country’s political system.

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The Future of the Front National: L’effet Marine Le Pen

Professor Jim Shields delivering his presentation on the Le Pens and the Front National.— Professor Jim Shields delivering his presentation on the Le Pens and the Front National.

A workshop titled ‘The Future of the Front National’ was hosted on 1 February 2013 where discussions were held surrounding the impact of the Front National (FN) on French politics and its future under the leadership of Marine Le Pen.

Each paper presented focussed on different aspects of the issue and offered a convincing account of the state of the French extreme right.

Dr Aurelien Mondon, from the University of Bath, opened the workshop by discussing the process of normalisation undertaken by the party in the past three decades. Instead of describing Le Pen’s result as a shock or a surprise, by focusing on the Presidential elections since 2002, Mondon explained that the ebb and flow of the FN’s results were in fact the logical outcome of the process of mainstreaming of the party.

By highlighting the continuity in this process of the mainstreaming of extreme right politics and ideas, the paper illustrated that Marine Le Pen’s rise was in fact greatly facilitated by a decade of right-wing populism, which was given impetus by Nicolas Sarkozy’s role as President. Continue reading The Future of the Front National: L’effet Marine Le Pen