“What we want is to make the people enter the National Assembly and ensure our ideas are represented,” said Bardella, who isn’t running for a seat himself, after speaking with the fishermen. “I want our ideas to take power.”
Of Italian heritage, Bardella was born and raised in Seine Saint-Denis, a tough, poor and ethnically diverse Paris suburb, and dropped out of university to focus on politics. He rose quickly through the party ranks, becoming party deputy in 2019.
Bardella plays up his background and portrays himself as the polar opposite of the average French politician. He has helped Le Pen to “mainstream” the party since she took it over from her father, by focusing on surging living costs and re-framing its views on women.
“We had a woman as presidential candidate and we have a guy who’s 26 as an acting boss, which shows how modern and open minded we are,” says Louis Aliot, the mayor of the southern city of Perpignan and the party’s vice-president.
At the same time Bardella holds some views that even Le Pen has taken pains not to voice.
While Le Pen has distanced herself from comments about race, Bardella has portrayed immigration from Africa as a civilizational threat. That’s an allusion to the “great replacement” — a conspiracy theory once confined to racist far-right tracts that’s fueling deadly gun violence around the world. It’s championed by Eric Zemmour, who came fourth in the presidential election and has been sanctioned for hate speech.
“I agree with some of Zemmour’s views, I know the subjects he talks about because I grew up in a suburb,” Bardella said in a separate interview on Thursday, before adding “Zemmour doesn’t bring any answer to people’s problems.”
At the port, Bardella was followed by his official photographer, who is taking images as part of the drive to make him appear presidential, according to Le Monde newspaper. The visit, the first from a national politician in a long time, meant a lot, said Lavaud, the fisherman. “Macron’s people didn’t even come.”
Some party members don’t think the RN will do well in the legislative ballot, and they are lashing out at a system they say doesn’t reflect the people’s will. “It’s because the National Assembly doesn’t address people’s issues and ideas that people go out on the street,” Bardella said.
If he wins an internal party vote in the fall and is confirmed RN leader he will have two elections to prepare: for the Senate in 2023 and the European parliament the following year. Only then can he start focusing more on the presidential election in 2027.
“I hear the internal critics saying I’m too young but this won’t stop me. Napoleon said ‘we grow up fast on the battlefield,’” Bardella said, “and I have inherited Marine Le Pen’s resilience.”©2022 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.