Les gages de la peur

Jonathan Fenby on Le Pen’s most recent gains

Jean-Marie Le Pen was late, as he often is. But it was not his fault, he explained to the capacity audience who had paid 40 francs each to hear him in a huge, cheerless exhibition hall outside Toulouse. His plane had been delayed and the pilot – ‘a good Frenchman’ – had told him it was because air traffic control for France was run from a centre at Maastricht. That was what you got, Le Pen thought, when you handed control of your skies to Eurocrats. At Maastricht, he had learned from the pilot, the French air traffic controllers had been chased from their jobs by the Dutch, the Germans and the British, who were now holding up French planes to give their own national airlines an unfair advantage. It was another anti-French plot, and it explained why the hero of the National Front, the defender of the purity of France, the burly rabble-rouser who holds audiences spellbound as he speaks without notes for two hours or more, had kept the good people of the South-West waiting to hear him this spring evening.

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