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Jordan Bardella auditions for PM in crucial TV debate

Jordan Bardella during last night's TF1 debate. Credit: Getty

June 26, 2024 - 11:55am

For a populist hoping to revolutionise France with a radical new agenda, Jordan Bardella at first sounded more like a utilities salesman than a future prime minister. Pointing to an image of an electricity bill during last night’s televised debate, the President of the National Rally (RN), said his most pressing ambition was to make fellow citizens feel comfortable with their service-providers.

“Today, opening your bills or opening your mail is a source of anxiety for millions of French people who, in our country, are no longer able to make a living from their work,” said Bardella. “If the French place their trust in me, I will be the prime minister of purchasing power.”

Bardella is only 28, and has zero governing experience, but was determined to stake his claim to being a serious politician and move away from the caricature of a far-Right rabble-rouser obsessed with immigration and identity. As well as current PM and Emmanuel Macron ally Gabriel Attal, he faced off last night against Manuel Bompard of the New Popular Front, an alliance of Leftist parties that hopes to lock the RN out of power.

The trio used their appearance on TF1 to try and convince voters to support them in snap two-round parliamentary elections called by Macron, which are due to open on Sunday.

Attal targeted Bardella’s inexperience by attacking “financial pit” ideas, which include dropping VAT on energy products from 20% to 5.5%, ensuring some €17 billion being wiped off state coffers. There was also intense criticism of the spendthrift Leftist coalition for making reform suggestions that would cost billions, without any indication of how the money would be raised.

Unsurprisingly, Bardella was more confident when it came to immigration. A sulphurous issue in this election is droit du sol — the right to French citizenship for anyone born in France, whatever the nationality of their parents. Bardella wants to abolish it, saying it “no longer makes sense in a world of eight billion people”. He described “continents, and in particular Africa, which will become demographic bombs and where we know that a large part of those aspiring to immigration will be tempted to come to European soil”. He insisted that “immigration is a major subject that disrupts our identity, our security and the balance of public accounts”.

A Bardella government would mean “drastically reducing migratory flows” and passing “an emergency law to abolish” droit du sol. “It will be done calmly, by law,” said the RN President, even though the Constitutional Council — France’s highest court — has already ruled against such measures, as recently as January.

Bardella then focused on dual nationals, whom he wants banned from all security-sensitive public roles. “You want to put a Franco-Russian at the head of a nuclear power plant?” he asked.

Attal immediately retorted: “Can you tell the French watching us who Tamara Volokhova is, yes or no?” Volokhova is the RN’s advisor to the Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament, of which the party is a member. She is, as Attal pointed out last night, herself a Franco-Russian who represents the RN at the Foreign Affairs Committee on security and defence issues — and who in the process attends closed-door meetings which cover confidential information on the Ukraine war.

Bardella was stuck for a reply, leading Attal to claim that “there are 3.5 million French people who are stigmatised by your proposal.” It might have been an embarrassing putdown, but it’s unlikely to sway voting intentions. The RN is flying high in opinion polls at around 35%, with the New Popular Front on a little under 30%, and Macron’s coalition headed by his Renaissance party on around 20%.

The overriding choice in the parliamentary elections is between putting trust in Bardella’s party or blocking it. This is why Macron has been warning of “civil war” if an overwhelming majority really does opt for the extremes, including by backing the New Popular Front. Issues such as energy bills are of course crucial to any election, but in this case the stakes are far higher.


Nabila Ramdani is a French journalist and academic of Algerian descent, and author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic.

NabilaRamdani

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UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
26 days ago

I am a French citizen living in the UK since 2001. May I point out to the author of this article that there is no ‘droit du sol’ in the UK (I don’t know about other countries) and nobody makes waves about this. My son who was born in the UK in 2002 of a British dad could only be French because we were not married, and we had to formally request his British citizenship a few years later (the law has changed since and no longer requires the parents to be married, but one of them has to be British).
I voted all my life for ‘the Left’ in France but this year I will vote for Bardella’s party because the French left is now woke or trotskyist or both. In 2022, JL Melenchon wanted to include ‘gender rights’ in the French Constitution… No thank you.

martin ordody
martin ordody
25 days ago

If the pols are right, than Macron and his Renaissance party must have done a lot wrong. Would be nice to read about that instead of this.

Francisco Menezes
Francisco Menezes
25 days ago

Preaching doom does not work. How silly of Macron. Funny to see how the French cannot deal with their requirements for citizenship. Ernest Renan explained that it is based on voluntarity and inclusion, sharing a common past, present and future on a voluntary basis. A feeling of belonging.
It is easy to require single citizenship and exclude dual citizenship under this theory. Loyalty is a one way street. The members of the tennis club cannot be members of the soccer club at the same time. It is either tennis or soccer. Clears up the mess immediately. Laicity should do the rest.

Aldo Maccione
Aldo Maccione
25 days ago

Blaming inexperience for a candidate promising change reminds me of the companies posting job offers for junior or training positions, but requiring “2-3y professional experience in the field”.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
25 days ago

I think Macron’s idea is a novel one here and will increase the strength of his neoliberal successor for the presidency.
However, opponents will compare it to Hitler entering the Reichstag. On verra…

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
25 days ago

“Issues such as energy bills are of course crucial to any election, but in this case the stakes are far higher.”
Really? Has the author of this article ever lived on the brink of not being able to pay her bills? I mean, ‘two days and you’re out on the street’ – that kind of brink.
Because I have. And I can tell you for sure, it takes a loaded gun pointed at your temple for the stakes to be higher than the day you can’t make rent and feed your family.

Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke
24 days ago

It will take a great deal to repair France. I wonder how many RN and NPF Deputies will be elected on Sunday.