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Patrick Buisson, major influence on France’s far-Right, dies

Patrick Buisson died this week at the age of 74. Credit: Getty

December 29, 2023 - 7:00am

Had one asked Patrick Buisson whether France’s far-Right deserved to produce the country’s next president, he would have said yes. Had one asked whether its head of state should be Marine Le Pen — currently favourite to win power in 2027 — he would have said no. 

This was the final contradiction from Buisson, the conservative strategist who died on Boxing Day aged 74. Up until a few months ago, he was suggesting Le Pen’s career had hit “a ceiling that was no longer made of glass, but reinforced concrete”, while his was still going strong. 

Still, there should be no doubt that Buisson helped make nationalists such as Le Pen, formerly pariahs, electable to high office. Her party — the Rassemblement National (RN) — has a history rooted in antisemitism and Third Reich nostalgia, and yet it now receives millions of votes in France. 

This has much to do with Buisson mainstreaming once-extremist discourse around subjects such as race, religion, and immigration. As a senior political advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy, he encouraged the conservative president to draw attention to the skin colour and ethnic background of lawbreakers from the cité estates. 

In a particularly forthright memoir published in 2016, Buisson recalled how a governmental PR team organised Paris Match photos of “Le Top Cop” — as Sarkozy was nicknamed when he was interior minister — facing up to “gangs of blacks and Arabs” attacking “young whites on the Invalides [in front of Napoléon’s Paris tomb]”.

Buisson revealed how Sarkozy was in close contact with convicted Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen, because he coveted votes from the family party, then called the Front National (FN). Buisson quoted the ex-president as saying: “The values of the far-Right are the values of all the French. It’s just the way the FN puts them that is shocking. The French do not like over-spicy food.”

It was Buisson’s idea to set up a Ministry of Immigration and National Identity in 2007. It was closed down three years later, with Sarkozy admitting that it had “sparked misunderstanding”, but not before it had stigmatised millions of French citizens, mainly by creating the impression of a burgeoning Islamist underclass threatening traditional Christian society. 

This sort of rhetoric underpinned the Great Replacement Theory — a term coined by Renaud Camus, another self-styled Right-wing intellectual, to suggest that African and Middle Eastern immigrants from former colonies were outbreeding indigenous Europeans and would one day outnumber them. It was exactly the kind of cataclysmic message favoured by Buisson. This Great Replacement became a rallying cry for the far-Right globally, including for murderous terrorists, but it just about retains a respectable sheen in France.

Buisson dumped Sarkozy following his election loss to Hollande in 2012, before it emerged that he had been covertly recording private Élysée meetings with the president. He received a two-year suspended prison sentence as recently as 2022, after he was found guilty of a variety of charges, including misappropriating public funds using invoices for opinion polls.

Such financial scandals do not destroy political reputations in France, and Buisson remained a highly influential figure. During last year’s presidential election, he supported Right-wing candidate Éric Zemmour. At the time, Zemmour was proving a far more credible combatant than the increasingly mealy-mouthed Le Pen, in Buisson’s view. He vehemently opposed the way she had detoxified the RN brand, moving it away from the red meat of the FN and giving in to republican values that ignored warnings of civil war. 

“The RN will never gain power while Marine Le Pen is the candidate,” Buisson said earlier this year. Yet, pointedly, the RN quickly paid heartfelt tributes to Buisson after his death. Party leader Jordan Bardella praised him as a “passionate lover of French history”, while Le Pen herself said Buisson was — despite his “provocative spirit” and “sharp pen” — “a man of great culture, a talented writer and a mad lover of France”. 

Buisson might have dropped the RN, but its leading lights know how important he was to opening up their path to real power. If there is a President Le Pen she will, at least in part, have Buisson to thank.


Peter Allen is a journalist and author based in Paris.

peterallenparis

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R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago

“African and Middle Eastern immigrants from former colonies were outbreeding indigenous Europeans and would one day outnumber them.”
I don’t know about France, but based on the census it’s certainly occurring in England. The ONS says the number of white British inhabitants in England and Wales went from 87% in 2001, to 79.8%% in 2011, to 73.5% in 2021. The reluctance to concede points like this makes me think the author is living in a fantasy world.

Last edited 6 months ago by robertdkwright
D Walsh
D Walsh
6 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

The day Buisson died, a number of African immigrants arrived in France to replace him. The Bugmen will tell us this is good for the economy

Howard S.
Howard S.
6 months ago

” but not before it had stigmatized millions of French citizens, mainly by creating the impression of a burgeoning Islamist underclass threatening traditional Christian society.” Umm, it’s more than an impression. As here in the United States. Who are we supposed to believe: the far left news media telling these are loyal, peace-loving citizens (again both in Europe and here in the States) or our own lying eyes and ears?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
6 months ago
Reply to  Howard S.

It’s typical woke nonsense. Anyone who presents an alternative opinion on the ’cause du jour’ which varies from the officially imposed narrative is labelled a climate-change denier, an anti-vaxxer or, in this case, a ‘stigmatizer of millions of French citizens’.
You only have to walk around London to observe that indigenous Brits are already in a minority in that great city. And this has not happened by accident. Blair’s multicultural experiment has become an out-of-control monster which will engulf the UK in civil war. Enoch Powell was right on the money.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
6 months ago

It’s amusing that there is never a right; it’s always the far right, as if that alone implies people who should be feared or shunned, maybe both. People are catching on to this tactic of avoiding debate on important issues by trying to delegitimize anyone who is not in line with the prevailing narrative. It happened with Covid. It’s certainly the case with immigration. It’s true with anyone who dares suggest that medical experimentation on children is, or should be, out of bounds.

Stewart Cazier
Stewart Cazier
6 months ago

The Great Replacement Theory isn’t a mistaken belief that immigrants are outbreeding the native population to the extent that, in conjunction with continuing mass migration, they will eventually replace them. That is relatively factual based on existing trends (which may of course change). The theory is that this phenomenon has been deliberately engineered with this objective by a globalist cabal in order to destroy the nation state and so to advance their nefarious ends. If the author doesn’t understand this, he shouldn’t really be writing about the subject.

Philip MINNS
Philip MINNS
6 months ago

Buisson also advocated a union of all right wing parties in France, from the centre right to the Front National. The current “républicains”, Sarkozy’s old party, have toyed with this idea for decades but have never dared to cross the Rubicon. They still don’t and have reduced themselves to political irrelevance with precious little political space between Macron’s centrism and Marine le Pen’s “Rassemblement National”. Had they done so, a new right wing party would have emerged of which Marine Le Pen would certainly not be the head. But they have not done so, and probably never will, and so she remains in the relative wilderness with little chance of ever becoming president, as Buisson saw only too well.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
6 months ago
Reply to  Philip MINNS

Strange that the article doesn’t elaborate on the reasons Buisson gave for his opinion that Le Pen would never win a Presidential election. According to the Figaro article referenced in the piece, the ‘concrete ceiling’ is formed of retired people (33% of the electorate), three quarters of whom would never vote for her in the second round electoral run off. But he also says that those ‘boomer’ voters move further to the right the older they get. The apparent contradiction is never explained.
It also seems unlikely that in a straight contest between Le Pen and Melonchon, which seems more and more likely as Macron’s centre party faces political oblivion, that these same voters would choose an avowed ‘gauchiste’, but it seems that in France, more than any other European country, the spirit of Mai 68 lives on.