As we all know, the runoff race to determine who will be the next president of France will take place in just a few days, with Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron going head to head once again.
While incumbent candidate Macron is clearly in the lead, one shock poll found Le Pen to be slightly ahead, and virtually all analysts agree that this will be a closer race than their last encounter – a truly horrifying prospect for entrenched establishment groups like the EU, whose position Le Pen openly challenges.
But in truth, this race should not be close at all.
On the side of Macron is a suite of state-run and private television stations which dutifully tow the line. The national newspapers are also on the re-elect Macron bandwagon, along with most of the regional papers. Turn on the radio anywhere in France or its territories and you are likely to hear a pro-Macron message day after day – or, at the very least, an anti-Le Pen message masquerading as a news story.
Add to the pro-Macron team Facebook, Twitter and the other Big Tech social media giants, and you’re looking at what should be an uncompetitive blood bath. Au revioir, Marine.
And yet, the polling thus far has not been a blood bath; Le Pen, all things considered, seems to be doing very well for herself.
And so perhaps it was inevitable that something like the following would come to a head at a moment like this.
The EU claims that when Le Pen was an MEP over a decade ago, she allegedly misused money that she had claimed for her party work, and used it for different party work.
A spokesperson for Le Pen strongly contested the claims, accusing the EU of “manipulation,” and adding “unfortunately, I’m not surprised.”
Now, bear in mind, sitting back and looking at this issue, I’m not here to defend Marine Le Pen per se – just to give some perspective. As reported by the left-leaning Guardian:
“None of those mentioned in the report are accused of personally profiting, but of claiming EU funds to pay for [party] staff and events instead. Le Pen has said she was not aware of having done anything wrong.”
So not even the EU is alleging that Le Pen personally pocketed the money or bought herself a Rolex or Hermes bag with it. All that’s being claimed is she used the money for different political activities than the ones she claimed. Remember that going forward.
The Guardian goes on:
“In one incident reported by Mediapart, Marine Le Pen is said to have made a claim in 2010 worth €5,000 for hotel rooms for 13 far-right party members to take part in a conference titled European Regions and the Financial Crisis. However, one of those taking part allegedly wrote to the European parliament and claimed the meeting was used to discuss the party presidency.”
Unnecessary and asinine “far-right” pejorative aside, it seems the charge here came from one anonymous “whistleblower.”
The allegation is that, twelve years ago (when I was in primary school) Le Pen supposedly requested funds from the EU to hold a party meeting to discuss one issue. She then got the funds, held the party meeting as planned, but supposedly discussed a different issue.
Even if this is 100% true, it’s hardly the crime of the century, is it? It may well be in breach of the rules, but not sure we’ll need the guillotine for this one, will we? Janey mack.
One wonders if when other EU parties meet in similar circumstances, do they never talk about party-related issues, or opinion polls, or how a policy will play at home or within the wider party? If they do, the EU seems not to be particularly interested in those cases. I do wonder why?
In another example it’s claimed that Le Pen invoiced the EU for €5,000 for setting up a website, but the website was never ultimately produced according to the EU investigators.
It’s easy to imagine any number of perfectly reasonable explanations for this. For example perhaps the money was paid to a web specialist to write a proposal, but in the end no further action was deemed necessary as the projected final cost was too high. Who knows? Who cares? Whatever the reason, the money was clearly accounted for, as again, “None of those mentioned in the report are accused of personally profiting.”
None of this is to say that someone like Le Pen should be allowed to misuse funds (assuming that’s what’s happened). If rules were broken, it’s perfectly reasonable for her to be held accountable for that, like any other politician should be.
But for an entity with a budget of €148.2 billion per year like the EU, a few thousand euros over more than a decade is less than chicken feed – they’d lose it down the sofa and not notice. EU commissioners practically tip that money.
You’re talking about an entity that spends €114 million every single year moving the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg along with all the staff, as an ongoing routine cost.
They spend over half a billion quid per year solely on promoting the bloc, and billions on dead-end wasted investments.
As a European taxpayer, I’m significantly more concerned about these massive wasteful expenses than a 5 grand web development job that didn’t quite come to fruition. And yet to read the headlines about this story you’d swear she robbed an orphanage to buy herself a lambo.
And many of these alleged misallocated funds by Le Pen happened over a decade ago by the EU’s own admission. Yet they’re only surfacing now, days before she squares off against Macron. Incredibly convenient timing, no?
At a certain point it just starts to look like a well-timed political hit job designed to scupper this woman’s campaign and throw a spanner in the works. Even if you love Macron and hate Le Pen, we have to realise the precedent that things like this set.
We have an unelected body like the EU which appears to be going out of its way to sabotage a politician’s chances during a member state’s internal election. That, to me, is a far bigger scandal and threat to the people of Europe than than a few questionable hotel room bookings.
If, when the election is over, the Commission still feels the same way about this case, then Madame Le Pen can have her day in court like any other person. But to choose this moment of all moments to move on alleged decade-old offences simply reeks of foul play.