Sunday 25 February 2018

Le Pen admits part of speech was lifted from one given by defeated rival Fillon

Presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen
Presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen

Henry Samuel

Marine Le Pen has admitted that a section of a key French presidential campaign speech she made on Monday was lifted from one made by the defeated Conservative rival Francois Fillon just two weeks earlier.

Shortly after the speech at a rally in Villepinte, a video was shared on Twitter highlighting the similarities with the one made by Mr Fillon, the former election frontrunner, who was eliminated in the first round of the vote.

On April 15, Mr Fillon, of the centre-Right Republican party, made a speech in which he made specific mention of the geography of France's borders, paid tribute to the French language and spoke of a third "French way" for the 21st Century between globalisation and Islamic fundamentalism.

Facing accusations of plagiarism, Ms Le Pen acknowledged that she had copied a part of Mr Fillon's speech. "I take full responsibility. It's not bad because this speech was seen hundreds of times," she told TF1 news. "We share with Francois Fillon in part the same vision of France. It was a way of recalling this."

Ms Le Pen, who has temporarily stepped down as head of France's Front National party in a bid to widen her appeal, repeated almost verbatim four passages from Mr Fillon's speech. Mr Fillon had also quoted from First World War prime minister Georges Clemenceau and writer Andre Malraux - in her speech, Le Pen used the same quotes.

Her aides brushed off the claims of plagiarism as a deliberate wink at Mr Fillon's concept of national identity. Florian Philippot, deputy chairman of Front National, said it was "a nod to a short passage in a speech about France" on the part of "a candidate that shows she is not sectarian".

Ms Le Pen's opponents derided the similarities between the two speeches, as did the French press.

The far-Right candidate mentioned France's "three maritime borders" with the Channel, North Sea and the Atlantic, a phrase already used by Mr Fillon. The claims underline that Ms Le Pen is targeting Mr Fillon voters whose support she needs to beat centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, who is leading her in the polls by around 60pc to her 40pc.

But Damien Abad, Mr Fillon's former spokesman, said: "Francois Fillon's voters are not fooled, they're not going to be bought just because someone copies their candidate's speech."

Ms Le Pen received a boost yesterday when the majority of supporters of the hard-Left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon said they would abstain or spoil their ballot papers in the second round on Sunday. Both he and his team have, however, insisted not a single vote should go to Ms Le Pen. Polls say overall abstention in France could be as high as 30pc.

The two finalists will face off today in what promises to be a no-holds-barred television debate when the far-Right contender will likely repeat claims that Mr Macron, a former banker, is the candidate of globalisation and "finance".

Ms Le Pen says she is considering reintroducing capital controls if there was a run on French banks in the event of her winning the election. She also says she would take the country out of the euro and that French people would have a national currency within two years. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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