Dr David Lees on Boris Johnson's relationship with Zemmour
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Associate Professor of French Studies at Warwick University and expert on far-right politics, Dr David Lees, spoke to Express.co.uk about the rise of populist Eric Zemmour and his French presidential candidacy. Dr Lees confessed he could see a “thaw” in relations between the UK and France if Mr Zemmour ever won the 2022 election, believing he and Boris Johnson shared similar traits. The French politics academic also said Mr Zemmour could see “like-minded” people in the UK Government as the presidential candidate visited the UK last month in the hunt for support for his campaign.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Lees was asked whether Mr Zemmour becoming French president could improve relations with the UK.
The French politics expert explained: “I think it’s actually more complicated in terms of relationship with the UK than past we might think.
“Macron politically doesn’t have anything in common with Boris Johnson, he is somebody who is very strong in terms of Europe and he’s now positioning himself as the leader of the European Union…
“Somebody who is ultimately anti-Brexit, very liberal in many ways, particularly socially, Boris Johnson is also liberal but in a different way…
“And certainly somebody who does not have time for personality over policy, Macron is a man of substance and has been like that for some time.
“That I think is where he’s very different from Zemmour… who doesn’t have that long term political substance or a long term political victory ambition”
Dr Lees added he believes Mr Zemmour may see eye-to-eye with Mr Johnson and members of his government because of their attitudes.
He continued: “So I actually think [Zemmour] will see something in Boris Johnson he quite likes, which is the capacity to stand up to the European Union and clearly Britain has done that now….
“Zemmour, I think, would like to consider France’s relationship with the European Union, he considers himself as a strange right-wing proto-Gaullist.
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“In that view of the world supranational bodies, so anything that comes above the nation-state is a bad thing and that includes NATO, includes the European Union.”
Dr Lees also believes Mr Zemmour will see “like-minded” people in Mr Johnson’s government on immigration issues which would ultimately “thaw” relations between France and the UK.
However, the academic confessed he did not think Mr Zemmour would win the French 2022 presidential election but if he did it would better the relationship between governments.
Mr Zemmour announced he will run in the French presidential election in 2022 after months of speculation from political pundits.
The far-right commentator has little political background but has garnered a respectful following from the French middle classes who are concerned about immigration and cultural issues in the country.
Mr Zemmour’s biggest rival would be National Rally leader Marine Le Pen who has toned down her right-wing rhetoric in the run-up to the election.
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Dr Lees explained Mr Zemmour’s candidacy would help Ms Le Pen in the end as she will now appear “more palatable” following attacks on her party’s “thuggery past”.
He added Ms Le Pen now has multiple political rivals to contend with meaning the right-wing vote will be split which will Emmanuel Macron to sail through relatively unchallenged.
Mr Zemmour was level pegging with Ms Le Pen when he first announced his candidacy with both right-wing hopefuls polling at 16 percent back in October, according to Politico.
However, Mr Zemmour’s support has died down slightly as Dr Lees explained French voters were doubting whether the outsider could perform if he was actually elected as his most support teeters around 13 percent.
Dr Lees branded Mr Zemmour as a “two-trick pony” who provided little else than criticisms on religion and migration in France.
The academic stated Ms Le Pen has learnt from her past defeats and now offers a much more substantive manifesto on the economy and other domestic issues which voters can get behind.
Mr Zemmour visited the UK in November where he had hoped to find donors for his campaign and also allies from across the Channel.
The candidate held several meet-and-greets but did not meet with any British politician on the record.
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