Published: Sun, March 11, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Steve Bannon takes alt-right message to France

Steve Bannon takes alt-right message to France

Steve Bannon, a right-wing firebrand and former member of US President Donald Trump's inner circle, voiced solidarity for France's a National Front (FN) party conference in Lille on Saturday.

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

Bannon, who ran right-wing Breitbart News, was among Trump's closest aides during the 2016 US election campaign, the presidential transition and his first months in office.

"Let them call you racist". Let them call you nativists. "Wear it as a badge of honor", he said.

Le Pen, who will wind up the gathering with a speech on Sunday, suffered a bruising loss to centrist Emmanuel Macron in last year's presidential poll and the party won only eight seats in the general election that followed.

But Bannon might have threatened Le Pen's makeover with his compliments for an extreme version of the National Front and lavish praise for Le Pen's more hard-line niece and rival.

He called the Italy vote "an earthquake" that has boosted far-right movements across Europe.

"History is on our side", Bannon said to hearty cheers.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen will meet Mr Bannon at her party's convention in the French city of Lille on Saturday, her partner Louis Aliot said in a tweet.

"She described it perfectly: it's do you consider the nation state an obstacle to be overcome or a jewel to be polished, loved and nurtured?"

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The European tour comes as Bannon's role in American politics is uncertain.

Bannon was booted from the White House previous year amid tensions and stepped down as chairman of the Breitbart News Network in January after being dubbed "Sloppy Steve" by the President for providing information to the author of a controversial White House tell all.

Bannon spoke only about the 28-year-old neice at the joint news conference with Marechal-Le Pen. She bowed out of politics after her aunt's presidential defeat, but is expected to come back in a new role.

The congress would mark a significant break with Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front in 1972 and has called a name change a "betrayal".

Le Pen is promoting a new name, a new leadership structure and new bylaws for the National Front at the two-day congress with the hope her party can become relevant again in France.

Le Pen, running as the only candidate for National Front president, said the changes amount to a "cultural revolution" so the reshaped party can "implant itself, create alliances and govern".

"She is not simply a rising star on the right in France".

The party canvassed 51,000 members previous year about the name change proposal and on Saturday it emerged that just 52 percent had voted in favour among the 30,000 who responded. Jean-Marie Le Pen also is to be scratched from the party's books along with his title of honorary president-for-life.

She has long sought to "de-demonize" the party by moving away from its racist past, but Le Pen's own father complained that Bannon was the "most radical" of Trump's advisers, saying Saturday's invitation "is not exactly the definition of 'de-demonization'".

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