Jean Marie le Pen, president of the French far right National Front party, has been banging the drum for French vignerons.
This week he visited Bordeaux, calling in at a wine show for the Vignerons Independents (a major grouping of thousands of winemakers across France), the Vinitech trade fair and a chateau in Loupiac.
Le Pen is about to announce that he will stand in the 2007 presidential elections. And, just as President Chirac has in previous years, he visited every stand at Vinitech.
A former Foreign Legionnaire, Le Pen – who champions small businesses and rails against the dangers of immigration (he has talked of France being ‘submerged) – is credited with putting the far right at the centre of the French political agenda.
He also has a reputation for ‘bigotry, bullying and belligerence’, as the BBC has put it. In 1987 he suggested the Holocaust was ‘a detail of history’.
A recent survey recorded 17% of French voters as being likely to vote for the National Front.
Bordeaux is the latest stop in a countrywide tour as Le Pen drums up support among agricultural workers, farmers and winemakers. His tour bus is emblazoned with the message ‘Marche Verte pour les Vignerons’.
He received a warm welcome from some in Loupiac, a commune in the south of Bordeaux, where winemaker Pierre Poignet told him, on a television news item recorded by France 3, ‘We are very happy to welcome such an important member of parliament.’
Others were less happy about his visit. Nails were strewn on the path leading from his bus.
Le Pen spoke about the effects that globalisation and pulling up of vines are having on ordinary wine makers, ‘Wine makers are no longer protected, because we have abandoned control over our own borders.’
A spokesperson for Vinitech told decanter.com, ‘This was in no way an official visit. He’s no longer in the region and has no official links with us.’
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux