Britain and France — a Wind at Biden’s Back?

The French left emerges with a strong hand after the surprise second round of voting in its snap parliamentary election.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
President Biden walks on stage to speak at a campaign rally on June 28, 2024, at Raleigh. AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

The surprisingly strong showing of the French left in the second round of the parliamentary election in France, combined with Labour’s victory in Britain, suggests that an ill wind for Republicans could be gusting toward America. And toward, if early signals are an indication, the Middle East, where Sir Keir Starmer’s new government in Britain just signaled it wants to rebalance its policy more toward Hamas.

The returns from the second, and dispositive, round of voting for France’s parliament were no surprise to readers of our Michel Gurfinkiel. The unofficial estimates suggest an upset in favor of the left, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Going into the vote today, it looked as if the rightist National Rally would win the plurality, or possibly an absolute majority, with leftist factions second and President  Macron’s centrist alliance third. 

Going in it also looked as if Mr. Macron, though likely to be badly weakened, might be able to salvage a government by going into a coalition of with some parts of Monsieur Mélenchon’s faction. In the event, it looks as if the left alliance is likely to win the plurality, with Mr. Macron’s Renaissance and allies second and Mme. Le Pen’s National Rally, which had been pegged to win the plurality, coming in third. She insists rightist sentiment is “still rising.”

It will take a while for this omelet to be unscrambled, but Mr. Macron’s prime minister, Gabriel Attal, has resigned, claiming that he “did not choose this dissolution.” Mr. Mélenchon is, as of this writing, refusing cooperation or negotiation with Mr. Macron. The leftist has a strong hand, and appears set to pressure the president into concessions that would commit the Fifth Republic to something like a hard left course.

In American terms, Mr. Mélenchon would fit right in with, say, the most leftist elements of the Democratic Party’s “Squad” and Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn. He accuses Israel of committing genocide. “The left is once again kidnapped by the infamous Melenchon,” is the way writer Bernard-Henri Lévy puts it on X. “Divisive language. Hate of the republic on the lips. Around him right now are some incarnations of the new antisemitism.”

We don’t want to exaggerate what is happening today in France. Neither, though, do we want to understate the matter. Moshe Sebbag, a rabbi for the Synagogue de la Victoire, tells the Times of Israel that “it seems France has no future for Jews.” He advises young French Jews to leave for Israel. That sentiment was expressed two decades ago by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when things were less threatening to French Jews.

Many French Jews see Mr. Mélenchon as more dangerous than Mme. Le Pen. Before the election, even the London Guardian, no friend of Israel, published a dispatch suggesting that Mr. Mélenchon would be a disaster. It’s hard to imagine that prediction not starting to show up in policy. One has to start wondering: Can the Quai D’Orsay grow even more opposed to the Jewish state in Israel?

More broadly, it’s not too soon for conservatives to wonder about the impact of the vote beyond France — and in the context of the vote in Britain. Britain, too, as we’ve well marked, is entangled in the Jewish question. Sir Keir launched his climb to prime minister with a purge of antisemitism from the Labour Party. Yet his new foreign secretary just called for a “balanced” Mideast policy — away from Israel and toward Hamas.

All this comes as Americans are facing their own historic choice. On the one hand is a Bidenism that means more inflation, higher taxes, more regulation, and slower growth and an appeasement instinct in foreign policy. On the other hand is a Trumpism that offers lower inflation, lower taxes, less regulation, and a pro-Israel stance. It’s a situation where Britain and France suddenly offer Mr. Biden a wind at his back.

The New York Sun

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