The only question with Ms. Le Penn was would she come 2nd or 3rd? The final tally put her at just under 18% of the vote with an 81% turnout and, very sadly, third place.
Ms. Le Penn has done a great deal to reposition The National Front, to move away from being a single issue party based on religious and racial xenophobia, to a far more credible right wing alternative with policies that appeal to many voters from both sides of the political spectrum (1). She's done good and her party will learn from this.
They'll learn because they didn't have one very important item of information that could have propelled Marine into second position. The EU is seeking a 6.8% increase in its budget (2)!
There's no question the timing was delayed until the first round of the French Presidential Election campaign was over, with the clear intent to spare Sarkozy from a humiliating 3rd place finish. That done, like some predatory parasite, it could not control its demands for yet more.
That's a huge smack in the mouth for Sarkozy who's unashamedly pro-EU, luxuriating in the media spotlight during those one on one meetings with his German counterpart, billed as the two who can "save the Euro". Opinion polls already show him trailing badly behind Mr Hollande and he's the alternate to the now neutralized Strauss-Kahn!
That may or may not be a deliberate ploy by Brussels to get their favourite into power (3). Certainly I detect a strong odor of self preservation and an unusually aggressive stance by Barroso, demanding that nation states come clean and tell their citizens that it's all down to obligations landed on the EU by nation states themselves.
With Baroness Ashton seeking fully £422 million each year simply to run the EU Diplomatic Corps, £23 million of which is part of this year's problem (4), it does seem that the EU takes a spectacularly different view of how they should fulfill their obligations. Ashton is well known for her lavish tastes and that extends to her diplomatic empire, so nothing but the best for them (5). They really do live in splendor (6).
Of course there are many more examples of EU institutions that do their own thing, with their Overseas Aid Programme coming in for justifiable criticism from politicians and aid charities, both for their priorities and the obscene cost of administering the programme (7). Another is the House of European History Museum. There are serious questions about its relevance and cost control (8). Then there's this business of trying to re-write history; their plan is to describe the whole of World War II as the European Civil War. That belittles the efforts and sacrifices made by service personnel from the Commonwealth Countries as well as the American forces (9) and that's wrong.
France is the big one, however the EU demand for a 6.8% increase in its budget will undoubtedly play well with wavering voters in Greece as well as the Netherlands. The Greeks go to the polls on 6 May, which happens to coincide with the final phase of the French Presidential race. An interesting weekend ahead! The Dutch go to the polls on the 12th of September.
Opinion polls are now closed in Greece, so this is all we can go on (10). What's noteworthy are the number of extreme right wing parties, with ANEL running for the first time. Their problems are so entrenched, their debt so enormous and their future so utterly bleak that I cannot see anything but another step to the extreme right. And the EU budget demand is simply petrol on an inferno.
Like many others I had my doubts about Wilders decision to pull the plug on budget negotiations. They were almost there and the amount they have to slash from spending is, by comparison, relatively trivial - just €15 billion. However the Party for Freedom (PVV) seems to have better sources of information than their French counterparts and the EU budget increase just plays into their hands. Wilders main point resonates with many. Why should the Dutch have to tighten their belts while facing huge contributions to the stability fund, simply to save those who have messed up their economies (11)?
The EU is a perfect example of "Mission Creep" and PVV know that only too well. It needs to revert to core basics - the free movement of goods, people and services - and quit trying to be a superstate. There's far too much duplication, far too many vanity projects, way too much power vested in departments and individuals that operate without prioritizing best value for money, knowing they're virtually immune from financial or voter accountability. The obvious lavishness at every meeting, with chartered aircraft, bullet proof cars, police escorts, hangers-on and the sheer wanton waste. These are difficult to justify during the best of times and send wholly the wrong message at a time when citizens are facing real hardships and demands for more sacrifice.
The far right are an amorphous group. Seeing faults with the EU as it stands doesn't mean you're a nationalist, xenophobic or even a eurosceptic (12). Having to live with infantile rules about what constitutes a wine or a cheese or some variety of processed meat is an inconvenience and an insult to our intelligence.
Making deep sea trawler men throw away up to 60% of their catch is a criminal waste and an ecological disaster thats ruined our fishing industry and costs us dearly. Mandating that between 5 and 10% of our petrol be made of ethanol forces us to be a party to driving up the cost of food for the least well off in the poorest parts of the world. Devising a motorcycle test that makes no allowance for wet conditions is idiotic and extremely dangerous for the youngsters who try to pass these tests. The list goes on and on and on.
The EU has systematically degraded our ability to compete in world markets and, with their carbon tax on aircraft that pass through EU airspace, they have undermined Airbus and many of the specialist enterprises that serve the aviation industry. (Many airlines fly empty aircraft to the EU for routine maintenance and are required to pay the tax for doing so).
These are all issues that boil down to jobs. They talk about trying to grow economies out of the present financial mess yet they, and national governments, have placed so many regulatory burdens on small businesses that grass roots growth, the risk taking self employed entrepreneur, finds their fixed costs are far too great to survive the first crucial year.
The smoking bans have had a disastrous effect on the leisure industries throughout the EU and the current hyperbole about overturning copyrights with tobacco and alcohol and food has sent a chilling message to many international organizations. The EU can't be trusted and it's definitely not on the side of business, jobs or wealth creation. They're doing nothing of substance - and the financial markets know that.
Youngsters know that as well. Unemployment amongst young Europeans is at a record high and a vote for the far right is not some protest vote, nor a cry of anguish. It's a considered alternative and a wish to see things changed so politicians act on what's important to all citizens. Few want to see Europe fragment into a series of nation states all trying to outdo each other but, if that's what it takes to get it right second time around, then so be it.
The National Front in France, ANEL and XA in Greece and the PVV in the Netherlands only exist because of the failures of EU Commissioners, Ministers and Members of Parliament. We shan't see Marine Le Penn as President of France this year but, carry on with this high handed approach, and there's every likelihood we'll see her running the show in 2017.
Soundtrack and lyrics to "The Time Warp" (13).