Marine, Marianne, Marion

Jeremy Harding

Last week Chantal Brunel, the right-wing UMP deputy for Seine-et-Marne, told the press that it was time to stick immigrants back in the boat. She was thinking of the large numbers, mostly Tunisian, who came ashore on the Italian island of Lampedusa in February. But her real worry was the fizzing popularity of the Front National – a champagne bubble bath lovingly filled by the pollsters for the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, in which she’s continued to bask as the rest of the political class queue up for cold showers.

First behind the shower curtain, Brunel herself, stalked by a posse of Norman Bates lookalikes, all of them dressed as Mother. ‘Makes you want to throw up’ (national secretary of the Communist Party). ‘Overtly racist’ (founder of the New Anti-Capitalist Party). ‘Shameful’ (Socialist Party bigwig). No way ‘to struggle against extremism and immigration’ (head of the PS). And from Brunel’s own ranks: ‘Not our position’, ‘I’ve said that I disapprove’, ‘we disapprove’ etc. These noises are a refreshing change from the gurgle of xenophobia in the salle de bains.

Brunel’s remarks were triggered by a poll predicting that Le Pen would be ahead by two percentage points in the first round of a presidential election if it had taken place on Sunday, 13 March – it’s scheduled for 2012. Critics claimed that the figures would have come out differently if someone other than Martine Aubry (struggling against ‘extremism and immigration’) had been named as the PS presidential candidate.

Harris Interactive, who conducted the original poll, scurried back to the drawing board and tweaked the model. Swap socialist candidate Aubry for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a likely contender, or for François Hollande, who should have run in 2007, and Le Pen still comes out on top. Two rounds of voting, two rounds of polling; turbulence ahead.

The internet journal Mediapart has denounced Harris Interactive for its lottery gimmick: respondents are invited to play every three months. (Opinionway, a rival online pollster, offers loyalty points for regular participants and a gift counter where they can be traded in.) Yet there’s no question that this month’s star prize from Harris went to Marine Le Pen, for creeping past the incumbent and the main opposition. Until, that is, it was wrenched from her hands when yet another poll, by Ifop, put her in third place behind both.

Never mind: she’ll be the candidate to watch, whether the centre right opts for the language of moderation or plays to her strengths by talking tough on immigration and ‘Islam’. Either way, we’re back at the Bates Motel as Marion’s blood – or is it Marianne’s? – pours down the plug hole. But there’s encouraging news from yet another poll: Psycho features nowhere in Allociné viewers’ top 100 movies of all time. And the worrying news? At no. 1, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The punters must decide.

There now follows an all-purpose party political broadcast for the French presidential elections 2012: