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.
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…
“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.
And more ‘green’ than the Green Party of the mid 80s.
Perhaps the author should return to his ancient roots in Stoke-on- Trent?
The author is not from Stoke-on-Trent. He is from somewhere nice near Stoke-on-Trent
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 Corrèze, 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 tête de chien, parigot tête 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
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?
Anyone who says “hang on, shouldn’t we think about what we’re doing for a sec…?” Is “far-right”.
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’
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.
You never get just *right* these days..and having to describe Zemmour as *Further far right* on the BBC was a hoot.
“Far right” is anyone who thinks indigenous Europeans have legitimate interests contrary to neoliberalism or non-European populations.
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.
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
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.
“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…
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.
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.
“plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!”
These views have been well documented by the likes of David Goodhart and Matthew Goodwin.
It’s France; most candidates economic positions border on crazy. Macron is unusual by that standard.
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”.
Maybe he should move somewhere more diverse and inclusive.
No mention of what lockdowns have done to people, businesses and economies? Is this all just forgotten?
Apparently. It seems the media proceed on the assumption that the public have the memory of a goldfish.
Sorry, what was that again?
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.
In general ‘they’ are correct in that assumption. How else can one explain the mess we are in?
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.
Yes entirely! It never happened.
Remainer mindset nonsense.
In a year they will deny there ever were lockdowns – that any such claims are ‘misinformation’
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
The underlying hint of ordinary voter’s racism, and not knowing what they vote for – we have heard that one before.
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
The author seems like he’s from another era.
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?
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!
Ha ha ha
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.
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.
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 %.
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.
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.
…. or concerned that that the “glamour and excitement” will encroach on the calm that they cherish.
“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.
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.
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?
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.
Who says “ the ones who say you will own nothing but be happy.”.
Not sure what you are talking about.
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.
‘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
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.
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.
As soon as I read ‘far right’ I read no further.
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,
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.
Withdrawn under duress.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.