Le Pen’s party promises to ban mobiles in schools and end inheritance tax for middle classes

Jordan Bardella announces his party manifesto in Paris
Jordan Bardella announces his party manifesto in Paris - JOLY VICTOR/ABACA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Hard-Right poster boy Jordan Bardella pledged on Monday to ban phones in all French schools and drop inheritance tax on the lower-middle classes in the manifesto launch of his National Rally party.

Other measures included a moratorium on the construction of all new wind farm projects, the partial reversal of President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform and VAT cuts on energy bills.

In an almost two-hour press conference in Paris, the calm and confident 28-year-old president of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) party insisted he was ready to become France’s next prime minister in a power-sharing “cohabitation” with Mr Macron if voters gave his nationalist Right-wing group an “absolute majority” in the two-round ballot on June 30 and July 7.

Failing that, he would refuse to lead the government, he warned. “I don’t intend to be Emmanuel Macron’s collaborator,” he said.

“In three words: we are ready,” said Mr Bardella, a university dropout who has never held a ministerial post, a week after Mr Macron threw France into turmoil by dissolving parliament following his centrist party being trounced in a European vote.

Weekend polls showed the RN garnering 35-36 per cent of voting intentions in the first round on Sunday, ahead of a Left-wing alliance on 27-29.5 per cent and Mr Macron’s centrists in third on 19.5-22 per cent.

Mobiles would be banned in schools
Mobiles would be banned in schools - ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP

That would see the RN come first but probably fall short of an absolute majority of 289 seats, potentially leading to parliamentary deadlock.

Mr Macron, for his part, has made it clear he will not stand down if his party is routed once again in a fortnight and that as head of state he would retain control of defence and foreign policy regardless of the result.

Among a raft of measures to cut immigration, restore law and order and boost purchasing power, Mr Bardella pledged a “big bang of authority” in schools, notably a ban on mobile phones – including in lycées, or French A-level colleges – which would become “areas of digital sobriety”

Family allowance and school grants would be suspended in the event of “serious and repeated disturbances in schools” by pupils. The polite “vous” form of address would become compulsory in the classroom. The informal “tu” has been tolerated since the May 1968 student protests.

Mr Bardella said he was personally in favour of extending trials over wearing school uniforms initiated by Mr Macron and said he wanted to stream more pupils earlier towards vocational training and apprenticeships.

To boost France’s flagging birth rate, which he said was unprecedented since 1945, Mr Bardella proposed increasing tax breaks for those who have a second child.

In another crowd-pleasing move, he said he intended to ”abolish taxes on direct inheritance for modest families and the middle classes” and “create an exemption for donations from parents to their children, and from grandparents to their grandchildren, of up to €100,000 (£84,733) per child every 10 years, compared with 15 today”.

While declaring “a moratorium on all new wind farm construction”, he said he intended to “rebuild a photovoltaic industry on French soil” “by protecting it with customs duties at European level”.

He said: “Seven long years of Macronism has weakened the country.”

Mr Bardella vowed to change the law to make it easier to deport foreigners convicted of crimes.

He reiterated plans to make it harder for people born on French soil to gain citizenship and to cut “spending that favours immigration”.

“It’s been 30 years that the French have not been listened to on this subject,” he said. Dual nationals would be barred from taking up sensitive state posts.

Mr Bardella added that the RN would focus on “realistic” measures to curb inflation, primarily by cutting energy taxes.

One independent think tank has warned the RN’s programme, which would partially roll back Mr Macron’s pension reform, stands to increase the French deficit by €100 billion this year if applied.

Moratorium pledge on wind farm projects
Moratorium pledge on wind farm projects - CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP

But Mr Bardella insisted his party’s manifesto was fiscally prudent compared with his main Left-wing rivals France Unbowed, whose soak-the-rich policies would turn France into “Venezuela without the petrol”.

He offered scant figures, however, saying these would depend on the results of a national state audit once in power.

On foreign policy, Mr Bardella said the RN opposed sending French troops into Ukraine – as mooted by Mr Macron – but would continue to provide logistical and material support.

He also said his party, which had close ties to Russia before its invasion of Ukraine, would be “extremely vigilant” in the face of Moscow’s attempts to interfere in French affairs.

Moscow was accused of meddling in the 2017 election that brought the Europhile Mr Macron to power.

The Macron government has warned of potential civil unrest if the RN gains a governing parliamentary majority – forcing Mr Macron into a power-sharing “cohabitation”.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire told France Info radio on Monday: “I fear for order, for relations between citizens, for serenity, for civil peace. I don’t see the RN as a factor of stability and peace. I see it as a factor of disorder and violence.”

But Mr Bardella said that on the contrary, his party would “restore order in the streets and order in public accounts”.

He added: “If I’m prime minister in a few days, I intend to disband organisations that foment violence in our society, whether they’re from the ultra-Left or the ultra-Right.

“I would protect individual freedoms, the freedom to protest. My red line is violence.”

Mr Bardella is due to debate on Tuesday night with Mr Macron’s youthful prime minister Gabriel Attal and Manuel Bompard of France Unbowed, which is part of a Left-wing alliance with Socialists, Communists and Greens called the New Popular Front.