Monday 23 April 2018

Le Pen closes gap on Macron after going fishing for votes in right-wing bastion of Nice

Marine Le Pen waves from a fishing trawler as she arrives from a sea trip in Grau-du-Roi, southern France, yesterday. Photo: Jean-Paul Bonincontro
Marine Le Pen waves from a fishing trawler as she arrives from a sea trip in Grau-du-Roi, southern France, yesterday. Photo: Jean-Paul Bonincontro

Henry Samuel, Nice

Marine Le Pen took her fight for the French presidency to the right-wing Riviera bastion of Nice last night as one poll suggested her rival Emmanuel Macron's lead had slipped ahead of the May 7 run-off.

The far-right contender spent the first three days after Sunday's first-round vote wooing French workers - many of whom had voted for Jean-Luc Melenchon, the Communist-backed firebrand.

Yesterday, she tacked right in Nice, just eight months after a bloody terror attack in which an Islamist truck driver mowed down 86 people on Bastille Day. To chants of "Marine president" and "we're in our own home," she said: "This election is a referendum for or against France. I call on you to choose France, not Macron" - to boos.

Long the preserve of the mainstream right, Nice remained loyal to François Fillon, the embattled conservative candidate, in round one, giving him 26pc of the vote despite allegations of fake jobs for his family. However, Ms Le Pen was only just behind on 25.3pc - well ahead of the centrist Mr Macron, on 20.5pc.

With Mr Fillon now out, the race is on to seduce his supporters. An Elabe survey suggested that Ms Le Pen can expect to attract 28pc of Fillon voters in round two, making them her biggest potential electoral reserve to secure the presidency.

By comparison, only 18pc of Melenchon supporters said they were prepared to back the far-right candidate.

In Nice's old town, Claude Picaud (69), a semi-retired pediatrician, voted Fillon in the first round. "I'm going to abstain. Marine Le Pen's economic programme doesn't suit me at all, particularly leaving the euro. Macron is the continuation of Hollande, I'm a right-winger," he said.

But many others said they would opt for Ms Le Pen, such as David Zinet (56), an estate agent, who had voted Fillon in round one. "The first priority is security, and Marine will do more. The other is immigration," he added. "There are too many foreigners. I'm for controlling borders."

As for Mr Macron, a former investment banker, he said: "I don't trust him. He's a baby Hollande. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if all this was part of Hollande's plan."

The meeting came as an Opinionway poll of voter intentions for the run-off suggested Mr Macron has lost ground. While he is still expected to win, his score slipped below the 60pc mark for the first time, on 59pc.

Yesterday morning, Ms Le Pen had hopped on to a fishing boat at dawn as she pursued a guerrilla-style campaign that has upstaged Mr Macron, who she claimed represents "unbridled globalisation".

Mr Macron, who champions diversity, meanwhile paid a visit to the multi-ethnic Paris suburb of Sarcelles. To chants of "Macron, president", he said: "France is not what Mrs Le Pen says it is. It's not this narrow, hateful face put forth by Marine Le Pen." (© Daily Telegraph London)

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