With Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen through to the final in France, people of a conservative disposition might feel themselves spoilt for choice. You can have either the believer in free markets and open societies or the upholder of sovereignty and national identity. In both cases, the left doesn’t get a look-in. But what if it isn’t like that at all? What if Macron, far from opposing the big state, is just a more technocratic version of the usual dirigiste from ENA? What if Le Pen, far from wanting a nation’s genius expressed in its vigorous parliamentary democracy, is just a spokesman for joyless resentment, looking for handouts for angry white people? Maybe both of them mentally come from the left — he ‘progressiste’ obsessed with equality, she the rabble-rouser exploiting nostalgia for working-class solidarity? From a British point of view, the whole thing feels back to front. Macron loves the EU in part because he sees it as a bastion of free trade. Le Pen hates it, in part for the same reason. That is not how we see the EU, but perhaps if we were French, we would.
Which result would better serve the cause of Brexit? Obviously, a Le Pen victory would precipitate a crisis in the EU, weakening its negotiating hand against us. On top of Brexit and Trump’s victory, it would be a thumping rejection of the internationalist complacencies of the last 50 years. It is unbearable to see the joyful pretence in Brussels, the FT etc that Macron is ‘anti-establishment’ — their collective exhalation of relief at the prospect that the same people will still be on top. On the other hand, is there a single Le Pen policy, apart from Frexit (which she may not truly support), that any reasonable conservative would admire? A Le Pen victory could make what the French call ‘le système’ look desirable and discredit the cause of Euroscepticism. ‘On est chez nous’, they reassure one another at Front National rallies. I find it hard to work out whether that is what we in Britain should want France to be.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes, which appears in this week’s Spectator