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French Elections

Could the Front National win the French Presidency?  Witness history in the making in the final round of this tense electoral race.



Dates: Tues 2 – Mon 8 May 2017

Price: from £3250.00

Single Supplement: £450.00

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Thoughts & Views

Political Tours travels to France in the last week of the French Presidential Elections, May 2-8

How Marine Le Pen Might Win

We had a highly successful recce in France last week, where we spent much of our time in the northern Pas de Calais area....
    Book your French Elections

    Tour Itinerary

    This tour is being updated as news developes.

    Centre-right candidate Francois Fillon’s presidential bid now in doubt as centre left En Marche leader, Emmanuel Marcon, surges ahead.  All our tour content and meetings will be adapted in accordance with the results of the second round.

    After Brexit and Trump all eyes are on France. A political upset here would leave the future of the EU hanging in the balance.

    With Francois Fillon’s campaign beset by scandal, the way is open for Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigrant eurosceptic Front National to triumph in the first round of voting. Emmanuel Macron, the self-styled populist leader of  the “En Marche” movement, is now the favourite to take her on as the incumbent Socialists trail behind.

    Our French Election tour starts in the Pas de Calais in the north of France where a combination of immigration and post-industrial decline have fuelled a rise in the Front National’s popularity. Heading further south to Champagne we look at the important rural vote before heading to Paris.

    The recent terrorist attacks have had enormous impact on the French psyche and we explore their political repercussions. Demands for “Laïcité” or secularism have become more stringent, alienating some minorities in turn.

    The polls take place amid a lacklustre economy and widespread criticism of the Socialist government. Previously the left and right have united to block the FN from winning the Élysée Palace. Will this year be different?

    Like our incredible US election tour in 2016 this could be an opportunity to see history in the making.

    French Elections Tour Details

    Our 6 night French Elections tour starts in Pas de Calais, before travelling south to Champagne and ends in Paris following the vote.

    Day One: ­Lille – Pas de Calais
    We meet in Lille, France’s northern most industrial hub for the start of our tour and the site of a battleground between the hard-left and hard-right. Our tour begins in the evening with a dinner looking at France today and the looming vote. Overnight in Lille

    Day Two: Hénin-Beaumont
    The North of France, with its heavy industry and coalmines, has been in economic decline for decades. Historically a stronghold of both Socialist and Communist parties, there is a noticeable swing to the National Front (FN). In the morning we head to Hénin-Beaumont, a town near Lille that has become Marine Le Pen’s stronghold since 2014. We talk to the local head of the National Front. Their rhetoric has changed in recent years as they appeal to the popular vote. What do they see as the key to their electoral strategy?

    After lunch we return to Lille and examine a competing list of frustrations. France’s largest union, the CGT, is at the centre of the hard-left and has strong representation, but the Socialists are deeply divided here. Francois Holland’s presidency is blamed for virtually no growth and 10-12% unemployment – with the youth hardest hit. Some want even more left-wing policies, but there is anger with Europe. We visit a local factory and meet members of the CGT. At La Voix du Nord, the regional newspaper, we go over the political changes in the region over the last decade and explain why the FN is seen as the last hope for some. Overnight in Lille

    Day Three: Champagne – The Rural Vote
    Best known for its beverage, Champagne is another target for the far right. Unlike the Pas de Calais there are no migrants here, but economic stagnation and the disappearance of public services have made people feel insecure. The FN has been exploiting the theme of “forgotten France” to appeal to these rural, low income voters. But the conservative centre right (Fillon) is also popular. We meet with a range of businesses and voters. The EU’s role in farming and subsidies is important but why is hostility to the block and foreigners growing? We head to Paris next and over dinner with an academic we discuss the flagging faith in French institutions & France’s economic model. Overnight in Paris.

    Day Four: Paris
    Perhaps more than anything else the terrorist attacks of 2015 and 2016 have redefined French society. The 11th arrondissement was the scene of two atrocities in 2015 with the Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan massacres. A young reporter recounts what happened at Bataclan. A leading sociologist and author explains how French society has changed over the last two years: The Charlie Hebdo attack bonded the nation together, the November attacks instilled fear and anxiety. Polling experts explain how terrorism, security and immigration have become the main issues for the major parties and why French politics is so fluid; French voters want to shake the whole system up, one way or another. We look at the latest polling predictions for both candidates. Dinner & overnight in Paris.

    Day Five: Paris – Les Banlieues
    Much of the French political debate revolves around long-term immigration and integration. We head to Evry, a suburb and stronghold of former Prime Minister Manuel Valls. France’s policy of placing immigrants in state housing outside of city centres has created tension and isolation. The leader of the local council explains the problems they face. Young French citizens with an Arab or African background can’t integrate into French society and feel like second-class citizens. Back in Paris we talk about the tension between the great and long French tradition of laïcité (or secularism) and minorities who want religion in civic life and institutions. Overnight in Paris.

    Day Six: Paris – Election Day
    We witness the polls as schools open their doors to voters around the country. There will be rallies in Paris for supporters from both camps. The outcome of the election is perhaps just as important for Europe as it is for France. We talk with several diplomats about France’s position in Europe as parties across the continent face popular discontent – how would Europe adapt and react to an FN victory; what if anything will change if it doesn’t? We visit major French media outlets for their take on the campaign. A long night for those who want to watch the results come in! Overnight Paris.

    Day Seven: Review & tour ends
    Over a late breakfast, we look back over the results and assess what the vote will mean for France and Europe. Farewell and departures for airport/station.


    Quotes from our US Elections tour in November 2016

    “If it was a film we’d have ended watching from behind the sofa. Tremendously informative and (despite the result) a fun tour.” AR

    “The quality and variety of experts was excellent.” VH

    “The speakers were a particular feature of this tour, and clearly much thought and effort had been put into selecting and engaging people from a variety of backgrounds. I doubt if this could have been improved upon and it was a privilege to meet them all.” CB

    “We’ve done a variety of group tours before. This was the best we’ve been on, both in terms of content and company.” CR

    “A sociological and political eye opener of a tour.” VH

    “The highlight of the tour was the Trump rally, because it overturned all preconceptions about those who would vote for Trump. We should have realised that the fact that his appeal was so wide would be very bad news for the Democrats. As with Brexit the volume of discontent with those in power would mean people would vote for anything or anybody who promised change.” SR

    “A must for anyone with an interest in politics and current affairs who want to meet like minded people. I would recommend Political Tours for the detailed organisation, visits to places not usually open to the general public and for the more adventurous, the exciting countries you visit.” CB

    “I would recommend the tours to anyone interested in current political events because the experience offered the sort of access that experienced journalists have, minus the pressure to report back of course. Also the guarantee of the company of people with similar interests.” VH

    “I have been on a few tour before, but not one of them compared with this one. This was by far the best. Of course, the material content, and the time and place of its setting had a lot to do with it, but there were other factors. The size and mix of each group was about right, and having both yourself, and a local expert with us was a big advantage, able to sort out en route problems too, and help set the tone and atmosphere. The tour itinerary was very detailed, and could hardly have been more so.” CB

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