Farage not as dangerous as Le Pen because he is a one man act, Straw and Rifkind claim

Former foreign secretaries Jack Staw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind have dismissed concerns that Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) topping the first round of the French election should be seen as a warning about Nigel Farage and Reform UK.

The result in France has shocked Europe and threatened President Emmanuel Macron’s Le Marche centrist party with a major defeat. He is now dependent on a deal with the far left to keep RN out of power.

Concerns have also been expressed after the shock result in France over the weekend with a number of people linking it to the rise of Reform in the polls in the UK election taking place on Thursday.

Farage has pushed his party to second in some polls (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Farage has pushed his party to second in some polls (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Mr Farage has previously been pictured with Ms Le Pen, the French far right leader, and suggested he could work with her on issues like immigration. However, he also suggested that she could be a “a disaster” for France.

Connections between the two had previously been made because of their shared views on immigration, both expressing criticism of the west over the war in Ukraine and their similar views on the culture war issues.

Ms Le Pen is also believed to have looked at Ukip as a means of remodelling her party from its fascist past to a rightwing nationalist one.

However, there are differences with Mr Farage taking a much more libertarian view to economic policy in particular.

Le Pen’s party has topped the poll in France (REUTERS)
Le Pen’s party has topped the poll in France (REUTERS)

And Mr Straw and Sir Malcolm insisted that the differences do not stop there. Neither expect Reform to perform a similar surge as RN because of crucial differences between the parties - not least because they believe Farage is “a one man show”.

Sir Malcolm, who was John Major’s foreign secretary between 1995 and 1997, said: “They are not remotely comparable. Le Pen leads a major party, with a clear ideological identity and many years of growing popular support.

“Farage has his own opinions and has some popularity as a campaigner. It is by no means clear if he will even win his own seat in Clacton.

“His main objective is to damage the Tories by syphoning of votes that will help Labour win more MPs. He may or may not inflict real damage but he remains an individual not a cause.”

Meanwhile, Mr Straw, who served as Labour’s foreign secretary from 2001 to 2006, argued that both Le Pen and Farage provided good reasons not to have a proportional representation electoral system.

Former foreign secretary Jack Straw (Getty Images)
Former foreign secretary Jack Straw (Getty Images)

He said: “I follow French politics as closely as I can. The RN did do very well in the first round but if the left alliance (Nouveau Front populaire) does withdraw in constituencies where it has come third, and Macron's Ensemble does likewise my guess is that the left and centre should win more seats together than the RN, but the RN are now plainly established as a very serious force in French politics.

“For all sorts of reasons the RN is much better established than is Farage's lot. It's partly the voting system but partly because thanks to Brexit and Johnson's decision to expel many good One Nation Tories from their party in 2019 the far right rump inside the Tory Party is so much larger than it was - and Sunak has lacked the ability to control it.

“Also British society is not so riven as is French in my view. But don't forget that the French voting system is ultimately a first-past-the-post system in the final ballot. If either France or the UK had a PR system God knows where we'd be - except in a mess.”