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How Marine Le Pen conquered Normandy Rural France faces an existential crisis

"Village France is the real France" (Chesnot/Getty Images)


April 11, 2022   8 mins

Here is a confident prediction about tomorrow’s first round of the French presidential election. In my lovely, peaceful village in the Calvados hills, Marine Le Pen will comprehensively top the poll. President Emmanuel Macron will come third or maybe even fourth. In the second round, Le Pen will win by a landslide.

Nationally, the polls suggest that this strange, long-frozen election will be a close-run thing — much closer than seemed possible two or three weeks ago. New survey data even suggests Le Pen could sneak victory, though Macron probably still has the edge.

My village Culey-le-Patry has no crime, no obvious suffering and no immigrants apart from myself and a couple of other Britons. Nonetheless, Marine Le Pen — far-Right, anti-migrant, anti-EU, enthusiastically pro-Putin until February — will sweep to local victory here in both rounds of the election. The same thing will happen in thousands of villages across France.

Village by village, that vote is tiny. Culey only has 280 electors, and a population of 355. There are, however, 30,000 angry villages in France: angry at petrol prices; angry at poor services; angry without really being able to explain why they are angry.

Yet this anger is nothing new — nor is it entirely Macron’s fault. In the second round in 2017, Le Pen got 34% of the vote across France; in my village, she got 44.7%. In the first round, Macron led the poll nationally; in Culey-le-Patry, he came fourth, while Le Pen came first with 29% of the votes. She may get over 50% this year.

Historically, Normandy is not fertile territory for the far-Right — unlike, say, the struggling parts of the industrial North or the Paris-hating South-East. And yet rural Normandy has been swinging gradually towards the Le Pens, father and daughter, for two decades. The smaller the village and the greater the distance from a large town, the bigger the Le Pen vote.

Little by little — it started long before Macron and the Gilets Jaunes — villages like Culey-le-Patry have changed political sides. They used to be the bedrock of the centre-right, Gaullist and soft-Left status quo in France. They have become, almost without realising it, a breeding ground for a tear-it-down populism which seeks to destroy France’s outward-looking, pro-European post-war consensus.

And yet few people in Culey or similar villages care about politics or follow political events from day to day. Several people I spoke to were unaware that the opinion polls had shifted dramatically in recent days. They assumed Macron would win but intended to vote for Le Pen. I did not find a single person who said they would vote, or had ever intended to vote, for her far-right rival Eric Zemmour. His rise (and fall) was largely a metropolitan/suburban phenomenon.

Zemmour’s decline was partly fuelled by his long history of enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin. This is something shared by Le Pen, but she has soared in the last three weeks, mostly at Zemmour’s expense, by focusing on high prices and low wages. The overall far-Right share of the vote (32-34%) has scarcely changed.

In my conversations, not one person brought up the war. They spoke of the high petrol and diesel prices caused partly by Putin’s invasion without mentioning it directly. An exception was our mayor, Marie-Christine Danlos. “I think people here do care about Ukraine,” she said. “Certainly they do. We are surrounded by the memories and scars of war from the summer of 1944. I certainly hear no pro-Russian feeling. None at all.”

“But in the end most people here are tightly wrapped in their own lives. They live for today and tomorrow. They feel sympathy for Ukraine but they are very, very angry about petrol and diesel prices. They are angry and worried about rising food prices. Who do they hear on TV talking most persuasively about the cost of living and purchasing power? Marine Le Pen.”

Mme Danlos, 70, is a retired social worker. She has always voted for the Left. This year she will vote for the hard-Left candidate, Jean-Luc MĂ©lenchon, not because she likes his extreme positions against the EU and Nato, but because he is the only Left-wing candidate with a slim chance of reaching the second round.

“I’m afraid of Le Pen,” Mme Danlos said. “And do you know why? Because I find myself nodding in agreement with her when I see her on TV. She speaks good sense about prices and low incomes. She comes over these days like a traditional candidate of the Right, not the far-Right.

“I fear that it hides a great deal. None of it will be good for this country or the people of Culey-le Patry. And yet she will get a lot of votes here and in the surrounding villages. A lot.”

***

Culey-le-Patry is in the valley of the river Orne, about 40 kilometres south of Caen. The commune, including a main village Le Bourg and ten hamlets, stretches five kilometres from the western bank of the river to the ridge of the highest hills in Calvados. The whole area was mistitled La Suisse Normande — Norman Switzerland — by a British journalist a century ago. It is more like Shropshire or Herefordshire than Switzerland.

When I first came to live here, 24 years ago, there were still 20 or so farms, large and small, including two tiny, scarcely-mechanised dairy ones in my own hamlet (population: 8). There are now just five, highly-mechanised farms in the eight square kilometres of the commune — and none in the hamlet.

Year by year, I have watched as the Caen suburbs march southwards along the main roads and climb up the hillsides. Our main village has its own small estate of a dozen bungalows, inhabited by people who drive every day to work in Caen. There is no tension with the long-time locals; there is no contact with them at all.

One by one, many of the wonderful local characters that I got to know 20 years ago have died or moved away. There was Jean-Michel, the hippy-farmer who drove his tractor backwards because all the other gears no longer worked. He moved south and last I heard he was an agricultural inspector.

There was Bernard, a successful farmer who was delivered by an SS doctor during the height of the Battle of Normandy, in July 1944. He flew his own bright-yellow light aircraft off one of his fields until one day, after morning-milking, he failed to come home.

He is buried in the Culey cemetery, next to Sergeant Maurice “Mike” Wilson of the Royal Australian Air Force, whose Spitfire crashed in the commune in June 1944, just before the SS doctor delivered Bernard. The doctor (a resolute Nazi until the end) used to visit Bernard — calling him “my French son” — each summer from the mid-Seventies until he died in the late Nineties.

The commune used to be divided socially between farmers and non-farmers (whom the former tended to despise). It was also divided between “the people of the church” who voted centre-right and “the non-church people” who voted to the Left.

Along with the school, Culey church closed, except for funerals, in the Eighties. The bar-restaurant shut ten years ago. Of the remaining population, perhaps only 150 are Culey born-and-bred (although that includes three of the eight people in my hamlet, who have lived there for 80 years or more).

In the 20 years that I have known it, Culey-le-Patry has become younger and more prosperous but its sense of community has diminished. That may change. We have 50 local children (the highest figure for a long time). They know each other much better than their parents do. They all travel to school together on the bus.

I see no evidence of great poverty or suffering but people keep their secrets to themselves. Mme Danlos, the mayor, says several local families rely quietly on the “Restos de Coeur” and Catholic food charities.

There are seven doctors within ten kilometres; a health centre; a council gym; loads of shops in the valley; a cheap bus service into Caen. A fast broad-band cable system, installed by hardy teams of contract workers of Polish and North African origin, will be switched on for every house in our obscure commune this month.

Neglected, rural France? Not really. Not all of it.

What is lacking is a local source of prosperity and pride — the small dairy farms on the hills and the factories and iron-ore mines which once provided jobs down in the valley. We are now a community with no clear raison d’ĂȘtre and no longer any real sense of community.

Other places in France may have more specific reasons for their anger with the establishment and the elites — crime, unemployment, immigration. In Culey, there is anger at high fuel and food prices. But that is a temporary phenomenon. There is also an  ill-defined feeling of marginalisation and loss: of not belonging to the successful, outward-looking France of Paris, Toulouse and Bordeaux, but no longer having any clear local identity either.

Denis, 78, a retired farmer told me: “Farming, living from the land, not just in the countryside, used to be what brought us together here. Now we farmers and ex-farmers are a small minority. People — and not just these new hoursins (incomers) from Caen — are furious if they have to wait for a tractor blocking the road.”

Denis has always voted centre-right — for De Gaulle in 1965, for Chirac in 1995 and 2002, for Sarkozy in 2007 and 2012. In 2017, he spoiled his ballot rather than vote for Macron or Le Pen in the second round. This year, he will vote for the centre-right in Round One and Le Pen rather than Macron in Round Two. “I don’t like her but she is not going to win anyway and I can’t stand Macron,” he said. “Even after five years I just don’t know who he is.”

Jean-Philippe, 28, is a plumber who drives 40 kilometres to work in Caen each day. He was very active in the Gilets Jaunes movement of 2018-9, which began partly in protest against pump prices when diesel was €1.50 a litre.

Last month, after the Ukraine war began, diesel rocketed to €2.20 a litre but has now subsided to €1.80, partly thanks to an €0.18 a litre government rebate. Jean-Philippe said: “The price of diesel and petrol is still much too high. Sometimes I wonder if I can afford to go to work. I would be better off claiming unemployment pay. It’s fine the government blaming Russia and the war. But why don’t they cut the 20% VAT on fuel to 5.5% like Marine Le Pen says she will? The politicians would rather give the money to  migrants, or to themselves, than help rural people like us.”

Who will Jean-Phillippe vote for? Le Pen in both rounds.

One of my most eloquent guides to Culey politics had always been my next-door neighbour’s cousin, Catherine, aged 58. “It’s complicated,” she says.  “It’s very complicated. Don’t say it’s all about xenophobia and immigration because that would not be correct. If an Arab family moved to Culey, they would be treated like everyone else. No one would scrawl graffiti on their house.”

“And yet the vote for the far-Right goes up at every election. Why? There is no crime, no sense of being insecure. Most people, like me, if they go out for a few minutes will leave their door unlocked.”

“There is a kind of submerged racism here. People see brown and black faces on the TV news or in the French football team. It’s not the France they know. They feel threatened, even though there is no direct threat to them. They vote Le Pen as a kind of protest or gesture
”

As Catherine says: “It’s complicated.”

***

Macron’s rural failure is not so much to have failed to invest in La France Profonde. Whatever the Gilets Jaunes may say, successive French governments have hugely subsidised rural France from urban and suburban taxes. Rather, Macron’s rural failure is part of his wider inability to persuade the whole of France that it can share in the outward-looking confidence and prosperity of its thriving cities.

When she slipped from view during Zemmour’s rise last year, Le Pen embarked on a village Tour de France. She gained lots of positive publicity in local papers, unnoticed at the time by the Paris and foreign media, including me. Her message was always the same: “Village France is the real France. The rebuilding of the real France starts with you.”

It was a flattering message but a deeply misleading one. There can be no future for village France if France as a whole is not prosperous. Le Pen’s policies — disconnection from Europe, discrimination against immigrants — would turn the whole of France into a village, isolated from Europe and the world.

From the ridge above Culey, you can see the flatlands of western France which stretch all the way to the Pyrenean foothills. We are just one pebble in thousands of similar pebbles on that beach, all no doubt with a similar ill-defined feeling of lost local pride and prosperity. The suffering of such places is finally more existential than economic. This is not a question of Somewhere and Anywhere. It is a sense of Somewhere-Lost.

Neither Marine Le Pen nor her 5% VAT on fuel will bring a sense of identity and pride to the many Culeys out there. They will, all the same, vote massively for her tomorrow.

 

*Some have names have been changed.


John Lichfield was Paris correspondent of The Independent for 20 years. Half-English and half-Belgian, he was born in Stoke-on-Trent and lives in Normandy.

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Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

The writer seemed to want to move to France specifically for its classic bucolic Frenchness that British middle classes love. But he doesn’t seem to get that his local community might also yearn for the same classic Frenchness and Gallic culture, and so might seek to preserve their way of life – the one he came to France for – in the face of global change. Local history and culture matter.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Well said. The left, and because of ideological dominance the left now includes the old “centre”, is consistently guilty of “double-think” on this as on every issue. It is the only way to sustain the increasingly illogical and apocalyptic doctrines now essential to membership, not to mention getting on in the higher echelons of mainstream society. That is why “the smaller the village, the greater the support for Le Pen.” Across Europe the right is in internal exile: barristers not becoming judges, journos never getting editorial chairs, teachers never promoted to headships, all because they are known to be conservative. So they downsize. And hey-presto, they find – in their new / old communities – heaps of people, unaffected by the crowd-manipulation of the metro-left, who remain much as people used to be – sensible, hard-headed, pragmatic, tolerant up to a certain, sustainable point. What a relief from the mawkish, impractical, self-hating loons of the metropolis! Speaking to an old friend the other day, who still lives in a big city, l learnt that he read The Guardian. He said this with a grimace, as though the mere memory of its malignant idiocies was painful. Clearly, his subscription is in the nature of an enforced religious duty, partly a conscientious mortification and partly a public gesture of conformity, of submission – to echo Houellebecq. The madness of crowds…

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

“The left, and because of ideological dominance the left now includes the old “centre”,”

Yep. Perfectly shown by the current Conservative Party who are not Conservative, conservative or Tory. In fact they re further Left than Callaghan in the late 70s.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

And more ‘green’ than the Green Party of the mid 80s.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Perhaps the author should return to his ancient roots in Stoke-on- Trent?

Last edited 2 years ago by ARNAUD ALMARIC
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

The author is not from Stoke-on-Trent. He is from somewhere nice near Stoke-on-Trent

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

I don’t know what it is with John Lichfield, but he seems to make a case about missing the point every time he writes a column.
I am in a small village, some 700 km south of Caen, in the department of CorrĂšze, 20 km from Brive.
280 registered people who will vote today, most likely for Le Pen.
When my mother bought the house 44 years ago, it was a farming village although the very hilly environment makes it tough to farm by UK standards. Small plots growing fruits, walnut trees, grapes
.etc and of course cows that provide a delicious meat.
The village is on a hill

no Arab, no mosque

.so why would people vote Le Pen ?
They have television, social media and they know what’s going on

in Brive or Limoges and they do not want it to happen here.
There is a café restaurant, a school with some 20 children.
BUT, having a drink with the maire yesterday, she told me that even she, didn’t know the new comers who for some, work as far as Limoges.
The place is turning into a village dortoir as once says here
..people leaving early morning, driving like maniacs on the very narrow couple of streets, do not take the smell of cow manure or the sound of an early rooster !!
This Le Pen voting in order to save a way of life is all but illusion that will bite these voters back where one knows.
The province has historically always been the loser in France and the hate of all things Parisian 
..endemic since the dawn of times due to the very centralised jacobin state, following a very centralised royal state.
I can remember as a kid being yelled at by local kids “ parisien tĂȘte de chien, parigot tĂȘte de veaux”

I see no contradiction Mr Lichfield between wanting to retain a certain way of life and being part of the world community.
Look at Germany
..Bavaria is a good example of high tech and tradition

Gerald Koh
Gerald Koh
2 years ago

Interesting information from the ground on this upcoming French election – but it is fair to consistently parrot the talking point of Le Pen being truly ‘far-right’ as if she were some true ideological extremist?

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Koh

Anyone who says “hang on, shouldn’t we think about what we’re doing for a sec…?” Is “far-right”.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago

yes, as you so rightly say, being unable to even finish a point is leapt upon if sound even remotely like you don’t follow ‘the agenda’

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

I am far right because I don’t believe in mass abortion and transgender and believe that a marriage is between a man and a woman.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 years ago

You never get just *right* these days..and having to describe Zemmour as *Further far right* on the BBC was a hoot.

Elizabeth dSJ
Elizabeth dSJ
2 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Koh

“Far right” is anyone who thinks indigenous Europeans have legitimate interests contrary to neoliberalism or non-European populations.

Michael J
Michael J
2 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth dSJ

Far right is anyone who thinks that there are more important things in the world than the squiggly line on the gdp graph going slowly upwards.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Koh

Well said.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Koh

Where does the right end and the far right begin? It all seems to be a matter of perception. I’ve always leant to the right socially, though left economically, so I’d imagine where I’d draw the distinction between right and far right is vastly different to somebody on the left, and vice versa where I’d draw the line between left and far left would be different again.
To me the far right in England would by the likes of the National Front,BNP, EDL etc, and UKIP have started to drift close to the edge since Farage departed. Whilst Le Pen is definitely strongly right wing and the party could have legitimately been called far right in the past, in my opinion she seems to have dragged it far enough back towards the centre to no longer be described as such

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

If you’re on the right socially but lean left economically, you are a populist, which is just another name for the “far-Right”. I know that makes no sense, but it’s the press that makes up these definitions, and “far-Right” now means anyone who questions the secular, liberal consensus of free markets, free trade, and free sex.

David Harris
David Harris
2 years ago

“Le Pen’s policies — disconnection from Europe, discrimination against immigrants — would turn the whole of France into a village, isolated from Europe and the world.”
Now where have I heard something like that before? Oh yeah. Westminster, June 2016…

Elizabeth dSJ
Elizabeth dSJ
2 years ago

Le Pen’s policies — disconnection from Europe, discrimination against immigrants — would turn the whole of France into a village, isolated from Europe and the world.

There is something deeply perverse, beyond mere hypocrisy, in a journalist living in a small rural village in France, then sanctimoniously decrying a policy vision to protect the French (belatedly) from globalism.

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago

It’s amazing that we still haven’t moved beyond the silly idea of calling everyone who backs immigration control “far right”.

Immigration control was, for decades, all over the world, the default position for all main parties. It was actually very unusual and fringe to advocate for open borders until relatively recently.

Marine’s economic positions are largely protectionist, which is left wing. In fact the only thing that stands out that could be classified as right leaning are her views on territorial sovereignty & immigration, no?

I find it frustrating that we still don’t have a better grasp on how to describe political views that gives a sense of what they actually espouse. We seem stuck with the facile idea that if you don’t want mass immigration you are a “far right” extremist …even if you simultaneously advocate for economics position that border on communist. Crazy.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

“plus ça change, plus c’est la mĂȘme chose!”

Al M
Al M
2 years ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

These views have been well documented by the likes of David Goodhart and Matthew Goodwin.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Jem Barnett

It’s France; most candidates economic positions border on crazy. Macron is unusual by that standard.

Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago

Haha, touché.

polidori redux
polidori redux
2 years ago

I wonder how the author can tolerate living in this sea of far right
 far right
far right. Perhaps he should return to the wealthier part of Islington where he would be surrounded by “right thinking folk”.

Al M
Al M
2 years ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Maybe he should move somewhere more diverse and inclusive.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

No mention of what lockdowns have done to people, businesses and economies? Is this all just forgotten?

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

Apparently. It seems the media proceed on the assumption that the public have the memory of a goldfish.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

Sorry, what was that again?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

Yes it often amuses me when journalists repeat something as if one is ignorant, which was in the newspapers a year ago, or yesterday, or even just above in the same article.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

In general ‘they’ are correct in that assumption. How else can one explain the mess we are in?

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago

They hope it is. growing evidence of crimes against their countries populations will mean after the Russia Ukraine crisis there will already be a distraction lined up, probably an escalation of the food and fuel riots.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Owsley
ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

Yes entirely! It never happened.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
2 years ago

Remainer mindset nonsense.

Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Michaels

In a year they will deny there ever were lockdowns – that any such claims are ‘misinformation’

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

The political narratives were always smoke and mirrors rolled out from on high and perhaps people have realised that whoever you vote for the Government always wins. It’s almost as if the rural French have disowned the political narrative as presented by the Parties and decided to back the person that means something to them.
Some may call it populism, I’d call it democracy.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

Camping out for years in the very same retreat from urbanisation and modernity which he now chides for sleepwalking into the arms of Le Pen, presumably because he found this life more to his taste than the impersonal, fast, disconnected city life he ran from. It seems you can live in a place for years, and still be just a tourist. A precise refection of a very peculiar upper middle class British bourgeoisness which openly states: love France, can’t stand the French.

Al M
Al M
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Reasonable points, but I can see little difference between the views expressed by the author and younger people who tootle out of their London district that they so loved into the sticks, just about when their children are due to start school. Fresh air for the kids, better value on property; many are their excuses. They then moan incessantly about how everyone votes Tory and so forth. But they don’t go back to London, oh no. My own university cohort is full of them.

Last edited 2 years ago by Al M
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago
Reply to  Al M

‘You know honey, this place is getting pretty bad. I wonder how it got this bad? Well, let’s take our money and our politics and move somewhere safer and more rural. After all, we’re not the problem.”
It’s the same everywhere. In the states, they flee urban California for Idaho and New York for Florida and Tennessee. Then they vote the same way they did in California & New York, this beginning to wreck their new adopted home.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
2 years ago

The underlying hint of ordinary voter’s racism, and not knowing what they vote for – we have heard that one before.

Paul Davies
Paul Davies
2 years ago

Talk about disconnected from reality. Until I read this article I had no idea what that meant. Far Right Far Right Far Right – what rubbish.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Davies

I only think about Hitler or Mussolini when I hear far right. That is why the accusation is so powerful I think, but I suspect I do not really understand what it actually means apart from being the opposite of far left.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

“People see brown and black faces on the TV news or in the French football team. It’s not the France they know. They feel threatened, even though there is no direct threat to them.
It is a direct threat and they know it

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

To say that people are “. . . angry without really being able to explain why they’re angry” is either flagrantly obtuse or utterly and completely clueless. People the world over are indeed very angry, with obvious cause, and are more than able to explain to this absurd writer why: He and his ilk are a good place to start.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

Very much a Remainer trait – many lacked the intellect to grasp the reasons why anyone might want to leave the EU.
An example here is a strong innate desire to have some control over the threat of globalist trends that increasingly affect an established way of life.
Use of the phrase “tear it down populism” suggests to me that the author is one of these people.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
2 years ago

The whole piece is suffused by the romantic myth of an idyllic rural France which stubbornly persists among (some) middle class Brits. Consider the detail of the guy who drives his tractor backward, which is taken as an illustration of the lovable quirkiness of a local ‘character’ when in fact it points to real financial hardship and back breaking work.
I was struck by the oddness of this myth when in a bus travelling through a lovely coastal village in North Somerset I heard the driver telling a passenger about the ‘dream’ he and his wife had of retiring to a corner of rural France.
I myself live in a big village on the other side of France (and have got used to Brits saying ‘I do envy you your village in France’). I love living here but am not blind to the tensions and difficulties both here and more widely. It may well be that this will be the Trump/Brexit moment for France which tends to follow the US with a lag of about 5 years.
You might be entertained to read this same author’s rather different take on the issue for readers of The Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/08/french-politics-marine-le-pen-france-europe

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

Many thanks for that, I had missed it completely!
Even here in my idyllic bit of England, the one thing we fear is the influx of ‘them’!
My local road has remained as tranquil as it was 25 years ago, but with the population exponentially rising at an unprecedented rate it cannot be long before ‘Arcadia’ is destroyed.
Are we to remain silent?

Last edited 2 years ago by ARNAUD ALMARIC
Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
2 years ago

You can have policy disagreements with Le Pen, but you know she puts the voters and her country first. Macron and the rest of the Davos set are working for the big corporate interests that fund their campaigns. After the last few years, people around the world are ready to revolt.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
2 years ago

The writer reminds me of a couple of my Florida neighbors who like me moved here from a deep blue state. Unlike me, they decry the conservative government and popular sentiments, wanting FL to be more like the decaying states they fled – the fight over the recent Parental Rights law is a good example.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
2 years ago

It’s a pity that states can’t restrict immigration from other states. Perhaps a 10 year residency requirement before you can vote in state or below level elections? Maybe by then you will have learned the value (and values) of the place you now call home.

R Wright
R Wright
2 years ago

The author seems like he’s from another era.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

The mask on the globalist elite has slipped and we all see the anti-democratic anti-national anti-cultural authoritarian underpinnings of its agenda. But what is the alternative? Atavistic nationalism? We desperately need a pluralist small ‘c’ conservatism, rooted in national culture but tolerant and adaptable, cogniscent of other influences, past present and future. But when all is heat and sound, where are those open-minded and calm enough yet with the strength of purpose to support such a platform?

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Smith
Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
2 years ago

I just want to agree with every comment here. I suggest the author moves to Paris where he will feel much more at home. Normandy sounds an idyllic place to retire to!

David McDowell
David McDowell
2 years ago

Ha ha ha

Richard Aylward
Richard Aylward
2 years ago

As an “ugly American”, my experience of the French – and Italians, Swiss, and other peoples on the European continent is based on travel. That travel occurred in the late 90s and 00s and, as a hiker, was heavily biased to the Alpine and the rural. I grew up in an area surrounded by family-owned dairy farms. My wife and I traveled with a group heavy on DC bureaucrats and the core group remained the same throughout. We had more in common with rural/small village people and their values and concerns than we did with the DC swampians. It has been 8 years since we have been to Europe but it sounds like nothing has changed. I’m sure our cosmo hiking friends viewed us as “far right”. And with either contempt or pity. I’ll be honest – it was mutual. Long live the village people. (Sorry
)
The hippy riding his broken tractor backwards is worth a thousand words. If I only had the time.

Last edited 2 years ago by Richard Aylward
Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago

The author wheels out his own personal canard, that MLP is ‘far right’ or ‘extreme right’ as if the old left and right distinctions had any helpful meaning today. What European government is not concerned with immigration? Is it unreasonable to question Nato’s role over the last 40 years in de facto encircling Russia? Is it reasonable to be concerned about globalism (in the 1930s the Coca Cola company lobbied the US government to have a 3rd tap in all American homes). Is pan EU federalism necessarily a good thing? Importantly, in my view, should retail and investment banking be seperate entities? These are the policies of MLP and can hardly today be called far right. In 1944 my father was shot down near Rouen and taken in by the people described by the author. Years a go I moved to Limousin and as far as I can tell the whole of France, save for Paris, Bordeaux and the failing Marseilles, are the people described by the author. The culture and patriotism of the people are writ large in everyday life. If MLP was to be elected FN policies would inevitably soften, as all newly elected governments do. And who really cares that Russia bankrolled the FN? Was it any worse than the dependency on Russian gas or the London housing market floating on a sea of roubles? To continue to describe MLP as extreme right is, at best, incoherent and, at worse, a desperate slur.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
2 years ago

You just don’t get it do you John? There’s more chance of France changing it’s voters than you altering your perception of the situation.

As for the current incarnation of MLeP being “far-right”; get a grip of yourself man and remember you’re supposed to be a journalist – not secretary of the Emmanuel Macron fan club.

Prediction – Macron will win, all this noise in the media is designed to wake their man up and get him doing a bit of campaigning. If she gets to round 2, Le Pen will do well to hold her own in the televised debate and crack 40%.

Other prediction, JL and the other Macron Groupies will ignore the fact that the combined anti-EU vote amongst first round candidates exceeds UK’s Brexit %.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago

While I share other commentator’s annoyance at your use of ‘far-right’, I do think it was a well-written and interestingly-observed piece.
You’ve done the journalist’s job, John: observing something that we, the reader, probably will not observe ourselves and painting a picture for us. Thank you.
I don’t have to agree with your interpretation of the facts to value your skill.

Last edited 2 years ago by Mike Bell
Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

I too thought it was a great piece of reporting and writing. The author does report the remarks/views of the local mayor who is left, but finds herself agreeing with Le Pen – I found it fairly balanced.

The most poignant bit was this” “The suffering of such places is finally more existential than economic. This is not a question of Somewhere and Anywhere. It is a sense of Somewhere-Lost.” Which rings true – for many places around the world. Too much change too fast, economic dislocation, ferocious capitalism and drenching media which present a view of life as all glamour & excitement – in cities – gives people a sense of being left behind, left out.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago


. or concerned that that the “glamour and excitement” will encroach on the calm that they cherish.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

“I think people here do care about Ukraine… We are surrounded by the memories and scars of war from the summer of 1944. I certainly hear no pro-Russian feeling. None at all.”

Not sure I understand the logic. Surely the French experience of WWII leads to “pro-Russian feeling”. There is a Place Stalingrad in Paris.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  Rod McLaughlin

Probably the people of Normandy sympathise with any helpless victims of war. On 5/6th June 1944 the RAF massively bombed Caen. On 7th June they devastated Lisieux and killed 800 people. A local Resistance leader saw a procession of refugees. They called to him: “Come with us to Caen. Lisieux is burning”. He shouted back that Caen had been razed to the ground. They sat down at the roadside and wept.

And this was only the start of weeks of Hell. Military writers noted how picturesque that “Switzerland” area was and what wonderful defensive territory it was for the Wehrmacht to fight hedgerow to hedgerow.

Al M
Al M
2 years ago

Didn’t get past the first few paragraphs with all the usual lazy tropes about nebulous provincial outrage. Is the author the inspiration for RS Archer, do you think?

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

I think Le Pen has some good points and is very democratic. I know that Macron is a globalist and attends the Davros meetings, the ones who say you will own nothing but be happy. Kind of like the communists promised. I have no faith in that at all but if it happens it will be imposed on us by the elites. I am bothered by the far right reputation but it does appear that Europe has a reputation of being countries where you can go and be looked after and maybe make a lot of money. The boat people only head for Europe it appears. It may not do any damage to France for LePen to win as France is controlled by the EU anyway. They will keep her in check. It would take a few decades forsomething like Frexit to happen.

Last edited 2 years ago by Tony Conrad
Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

Who says “ the ones who say you will own nothing but be happy.”.
Not sure what you are talking about.

Travis Wade Zinn
Travis Wade Zinn
2 years ago

It was important to note the key issue of shared community and meaning – how we respond to this need for shared identity and connection will be a defining issue in this century.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago

‘Culey’ seems trapped in 1950’s UK that I knew in North Wales and that’s not a compliment.
France seems lost … this election will reveal all
#Frexit may be nearer than we can imagine

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

What a paean for ‘Clochemerle’!
France is facing another ‘Albigensian Crusade’ under its present leadership, unless Madame Le Pen is victorious. She is the last hope.
Sadly for the UK, that opportunity has already been squandered.

Douglas H
Douglas H
2 years ago

Good article, thanks.

This says everything: “I’m afraid of Le Pen,” Mme Danlos said. “And do you know why? Because I find myself nodding in agreement with her when I see her on TV. She speaks good sense about prices and low incomes. She comes over these days like a traditional candidate of the Right, not the far-Right.”

Mainstream politicians: engage with people on everyday terms, or they will disengage from you.

Barry Stokes
Barry Stokes
2 years ago

As soon as I read ‘far right’ I read no further.

m aiken
m aiken
2 years ago

The writer mirrors the content of a recent book by Prof M Sandel called The Tyranny of Merit. Discussing the underlying causes of the fractious state within many western countries. A very good read which goes well with this article,

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

If the French know what’s good for UK they’ll vote in Le Pen. Why would they be pro Germany? We’re probably their best customer.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
2 years ago

Withdrawn under duress.

Last edited 2 years ago by ARNAUD ALMARIC
Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
2 years ago

An excellent article, applying to rural areas all over Western Europe. With the demise of the family farm, the link with the land goes, the raison d’etre of the village goes. I live in a similar village in Italy. The children are happily living in nearby towns, and the old ones die off, slowly, I am happy to see.

JĂĄnos Klein
JĂĄnos Klein
2 years ago

I don’t have a crystal ball to predict this evening’s results, but I think the author may be correct in thinking that Marine Le Pen will get plenty of votes from disgruntled electors. I wouldn’t rush to dismiss the voters of Eric Zemmour, however – a candidate who within barely six months has managed to create a whole new party and an impressive body of supporters from various different backgrounds. They won’t just evaporate when Macron wins the Presidency once again, which seems likely. We’re in for an interesting summer, come what may.

JĂĄnos Klein
JĂĄnos Klein
2 years ago

Macron may not be smiling much longer.
His bad record speaks for itself but I only hope the extremists don’t get into power – ie. the hard left or the hard right. Pecresse might be a safer option.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
2 years ago

Had a difficult conversation with my wife last night about whether Marine Le Pen and her party are on the right or the left. The press call her far right, but an article I read the other day mentioned that an academic who studies political science went through the policies of National Rally and 70% of them are leftist. The correct term for Le Pen’s politics is national socialist. Ergo, I’d never vote for Le Pen, and can’t imagine any knowledgeable person on the right ever doing so. We had the BNP and National Front here in Britain with the same toxic mix, and I’d rather never vote again than vote for that.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
2 years ago

There was Jean-Michel, the hippy-farmer who drove his tractor backwards because all the other gears no longer worked. 

Or maybe he thought it was a tank, and was following the French tradition.