OPINION - Macron defeats Le Pen (with a little help from London)

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

Emmanuel Macron continues to confound just about everyone. In securing 58 per cent of the vote (and 93 per cent of French voters living in the UK) in yesterday’s second round, he became the first president in two decades to win re-election.

His victory over the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, although narrower than in 2017 when he won with 66 per cent, was in some ways more impressive. This time, he had a record to run on – or from – depending on your point of view.

The French have little love for their incumbents. Francois Hollande famously fell to 4 per cent in the polls before declining to run for a second term. So Macron’s victory is in some ways as if Leicester City had not only won but retained their Premier League title.

Twice now has swept aside the traditional parties of the centre-left and right (the Socialist Party and the Republicans managed 7 per cent *between them* in the first round) and triumphed over both extreme candidates.

On the flip side, it is hard to get away from the fact that more than two-fifths of French voters backed a hard-right candidate. Le Pen may have moderated her language – and dropped her pledge that France should leave the euro – but her win would have represented a significant victory for illiberalism and a certain Vladimir Putin.

Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future think tank, has a useful way of framing Le Pen’s performance. Her 42 per cent may represent the best any Le Pen, including her father Jean-Marie, has secured in their three jaunts to the run-off.

At the same time, it would be the worst second round result of any losing presidential candidate who happens not to be called ‘Le Pen’.

As for us, don’t expect much of a change in UK-France relations. Macron will be more focused on leaving a legacy in Europe. Still, the memes have been good. This was my personal favourite, with a London flavour.

In the comment pages, Vicky Jessop says women like her are transforming nerd culture — it’s now chic to geek out on Comic Con. Also worth a click and scroll to the bottom for you Selling Sunset fans.

Meanwhile, Melanie McDonagh thinks the Angela Rayner furore distracts from Westminster’s real power problem. If you still need convincing, just read the first sentence.

Finally, coming soon: a bench to help make new friends. “Friendship benches” where Londoners can talk to a health volunteer about anxiety, depression and other concerns could be installed beside Tube stations, shops and cafes.

This article appears in our newsletter, West End Final – delivered 4pm daily – bringing you the very best of the paper, from culture and comment to features and sport. Sign up here.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting