In the next couple of weeks, the peoples of France and the United Kingdom will make important decisions regarding the future of their respective nations and of Europe as a whole. In France, the people face a presidential choice between a centrist, relatively inexperienced moderate and a highly controversial, far-right nationalist. In Britain, the people must choose between the pragmatic, centrist incumbent Prime Minister and a far-left socialist. The choices these two countries make over the coming weeks will help decide the fate of the European experiment.
Marine Le Pen has become a household name across the globe for her verbose language and radical ideas. The leader of the far-right National Front party, Le Pen has energized many young and working-class voters who feel that the European Union’s policies of open borders and free trade has stripped France of its industrial base and middle class jobs. She has, in effect, become a Trump-like figure in France. Her rhetoric is highly populist, her ideals and policies are quite controversial and she has gained the support of disenchanted white working-class voters. Le Pen –– who is currently a highly influential member of the European Parliament –– has spent the greater part of her professional life campaigning for a jingoistic, nativist platform originally spearheaded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.
If elected President, Le Pen will change the face of Europe for the foreseeable future. Her desire to remove France from the European Union will all but ensure the destruction of the European experiment, as most economic and political commentators believe that the European Union cannot survive a “Frexit.”
Emmanuel Macron, Le Pen’s challenger, stands in stark contrast to the right-winger. Unlike Le Pen, who was first elected to political office in the 1990s, Macron is a political novice. He has never held elected office, and the only government position he has held was a two-year stint as Finance Minister. Furthermore, his ideas and policies are highly centrist: he supports the European Union, free trade and open immigration.
In the race between these two radically different candidates, I encourage the people of France to stand behind Macron. Le Pen’s policies are, quite frankly, absurd. Her protectionist economic policy would decimate the French economy, and her anti-E.U. stance would destroy the world’s most important post-war institution. Though flawed, the European Union is the best vehicle to ensure that the European continent does not break out into yet another catastrophic war. Furthermore, Le Pen has made a series of incredibly anti-Semitic comments that should disqualify her from the presidency.
Just across the English Channel, the people of Britain face an important electoral decision as well. Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the United Kingdom would hold early parliamentary elections to help ensure stability as the nation leaves the E.U. Like France, this election will have exceptionally important consequences for the future of Britain and Europe.
Theresa May is at the center of this election. The tough, pragmatic leader has a long political resume: she was first elected to Parliament in 1997, held two major cabinet posts (including Home Secretary, one of the most important offices in the cabinet), and served in a long list of positions in the Shadow Cabinet. Described by many as the new “Iron Lady,” May has gained the reputation of being a formidable leader and an adept politician. It is her goal to help Britain leave the E.U. as smoothly as possible by preserving many of the trade deals between the U.K. and Europe.
Leading the charge against May is a man disliked by many: Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party . Though he was first elected to Parliament in 1983, Corbyn was a relative back bencher until 2015. He held no cabinet posts during Labour’s 13 years in government between 1997 and 2010, and was considered by many to hold little to no influence over national politics. In 2015, after Labour’s disastrous performance in the parliamentary elections, the party’s far-left factions united to bring Corbyn out of the back benches,electing him Leader of the Opposition. In his time as opposition leader, Corbyn’s socialist populism has worked to alienate large segments of Labour’s electoral base –– especially in working-class Northern England. In addition, his radical redistribution plans and poor management led two-thirds of the Labour Shadow Cabinet to resign in protest.
If Britain is to leave the E.U. smoothly, then the only rational choice for the people of the United Kingdom is Theresa May and the Conservative Party. May has consistently proven that she possesses the competence and steady hand to lead the U.K. through times of great uncertainty. At the same time, Corbyn’s tenure as opposition leader has been characterized by incompetence and a radical, far-left agenda that threatens to derail Britain’s economic recovery.
The choice for France and the U.K. is clear: avoid the radicals at all costs. May and Macron are two forward-thinking leaders who will refuse to allow the failed policies of socialism, protectionism, anti-Semitism and pure hatred divide their respective nations.
Michael Glanzel is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cornell Shrugged