France is latest nation to vote against the status quo

Morning View
Morning View

It was unclear late last night who had topped the poll in the first round of the French presidential election.

An Ipsos exit poll put Emmanuel Macron a little bit ahead of Marine Le Pen, on 24% compared to 22%.

Other polls or early findings suggested they were neck and neck and perhaps even Le Pen marginally ahead.

However, it seems clear that those two candidates – the centrist Macron and the hard right Le Pen – would be the final two in the presidential run-off a fortnight from now, on May 7.

The result is stunning, because neither the conservative Gaullists (represented by Francois Fillon) nor Francois Hollande’s Socialists (represented by Benoit Hamon, who came in a humiliating fifth place) have made it to the last round.

Thus while Ms Le Pen’s National Front has not made the breakthrough that she might have done, the results are nonetheless remarkable in that they chime with the global trend for electoral uncertainty and unhappiness with the status quo. Mr Macron has come from nowhere to the likely next president with his En Marche! independent movement.

The polls that have asked voters about a Macron-Le Pen final contest have him ahead by at least a 25% margin. That means that it will be astonishing if Ms Le Pen becomes president. There would have to be both a massive polling error and a late swing to her. It would be even more of a surprise than Brexit or the Trump presidential win in America.

But if such a surprise is possible at any time, it is just about possible now, given the unpredictability of electorates. But the fact Ms Le Pen has got this far is a fresh warning to elites not to be dismissive of the national concerns of working folk.

A Le Pen victory would possibly be the end of the EU. Some Brexiteers would welcome that prospect, but more will wish the EU well – they just don’t want the UK to be part of it.

Two weeks from now we will have a clearer idea of the Europe that the UK will have to negotiate with and that will help to inform British voters for the general election on June 8.