National Front's Nanterre offices during Wednesday morning's police raid
Workers in the National Front’s Nanterre headquarters had a poor start to the day on Wednesday. Their office was raided by a bunch of gendarmes.
But this wasn’t any run-of-the-mill raid. The French police acted as part of a European parliament investigation into Marine Le Pen’s far-right party for alleged expense fiddling by its MEPs.
The party – which is now consistently running first or second in polling for next year’s French presidential race and remains the largest French party in the European parliament itself – were accused by EU authorities last year of fraudulently claiming €7.5m to cover the pay of 20 MEP assistants who worked only on national matters – which is against EU rules.
As expected, FN are not happy it. They hit back, in typically bombastic style, labelling the investigation “a political operation directly led by François Hollande and Manuel Valls with the goal of obstructing, monitoring and intimidating the patriotic opposition”. Read more
Beppe Grillo arrives at a polling station near Genoa during last week's election
The only more interesting political spectator sport in Brussels these days other than the fight over the next European Commission president is the battle between the three euroceptic political groups in the European Parliament to secure allies from the sudden surge of anti-EU and anti-establishment parties that are coming to town.
On Tuesday, two of the most prominent potential kingmakers arrived in Brussels on the same plane: Beppe Grillo, the Italian comedian turned political insurgent who heads the Five Star Movement and its 17 newly-minted MEPs, and Matteo Salvini, leader of the Italian separatist Northern League, who arrived with 5 seats.
Both were being courted by the two new big eurosceptics on the block: Nigel Farage, the bombastic head of the UK Independence party, and Marine Le Pen, his counterpart for France’s Front National, who both are trying to form their own seven-country party groupings going into the new session. Read more