Trump former strategist Steve Bannon addresses France's far-right party congress

Ray Weaver
March 11, 2018

"What I've learned is that you're part of a worldwide movement, that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than Hungary - bigger than all of it".

"The National Front has become adult. its nature has changed".

Le Pen, who lost the presidential race to Emmanuel Macron last spring, said on March 9 that the FN, which was founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1971, had grown up and it was time to change the branding and the name of the party.

He said that Bannon understood like Trump, Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen that people want to control their own destiny.

To that end, rebranding the National Front's image is the primary goal of the "party congress" in Lille this weekend. "Wear it as a badge of honor". Le Pen's performance in a pre-election debate with Macron was widely seen as a decisive factor in her defeat, along with the party's focus on abandoning the euro currency instead of core themes such as cracking down on what she calls "massive and surging immigration".

"Welcome to Steve Bannon who will address the National Front tomorrow at our congress and will meet Marine Le Pen". You argue for your freedom and they call you a xenophobe.

"Since last Sunday, there really is the impression that the victory of the League gave new confidence, new hope to Marine Le Pen and other leaders who see a favorable historic tendency", Camus said, citing Britain's Brexit vote and Donald Trump's presidential victory in the United States as similar guideposts. The populist 5-Star Movement and the anti-immigration League both outdid traditional parties.

As FN president, she said she would propose a new name for the party at its conference on Sunday.

France's Far Right Seeks Reboot Through Name Change, Unity Push

Warming to his theme, Bannon added: "You argue for sovereignty and they call you a nativist". Asked by reporters how she felt about Bannon's comments, Marine Le Pen turned to the American and said that journalists were trying to stir up competition between the two women. "Let them call you racists".

Jean-Marie Le Pen said that in losing heavily to Macron his daughter had "not been equal to the challenge" - a sentiment echoed by many FN members. Steve Bannon has given a big boost to French far right leader Marine Le Pen, telling a cheering crowd at a congress of her National Front party that "history is on our side".

An election next year for members of the European Union's lawmaking arm will be the National Front's first chance to test whether its rebranding strategy leads to a comeback.

"Right or left doesn't mean anything and doesn't reflect the real division in France today which is between those who feel the nation is an obstacle and those who feel the nation is a jewel to be defended", she said.

Le Pen is hoping for a rematch with Macron in next year's European elections by forming alliances with other eurosceptic parties around the bloc while banking on divisions at home between pro-Macron centrists and rightwingers tearing his party apart.

The weekend congress is expected to erase one persistent problem for Le Pen - her unpredictable, bombastic father - by eliminating his title of honorary president-for-life from party statutes.

Bannon's visit to France was his latest stop on a tour of European countries, which has included Switzerland and Italy.

Other reports by Insurance News

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