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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 06:53 GMT 07:53 UK
Le Pen policies 'repellent' - Blair
Tony Blair
Tony Blair: "Fight racism"
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has condemned the policies of French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen as "repellent".

In a blunt newspaper interview, Mr Blair also labels the far-right politician's views as racist and attacks his use of "narrow-minded nationalism".

I don't know Le Pen but I find his policies repellent

Tony Blair

Since Mr Le Pen won through to the second round of the French presidential elections, knocking Prime Minister Lionel Jospin out of the contest, thousands of people have taken to the streets in France in protest.

Mr Blair's comments come as Mr Le Pen, a Euro MP, prepares to take his anti-Europe message to Brussels.

He plans to declare his opposition to the single currency and the EU as a whole at the European Parliament on Wednesday.

In his interview with the Guardian newspaper, Mr Blair said: "I don't know Le Pen but I find his policies repellent.

"I think it is vitally important that people who believe in democracy, who loathe those policies of racism and narrow-minded nationalism, fight it at every level, politically, organisationally, and culturally."

The prime minister's comments come after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged politicians from left and right to unite against racial hatred in the wake of the shock gains made by Le Pen in the French presidential elections.

Jean-Marie Le Pen
There are fears Le Pen's victory could encourage Britain's far-right groups

Mr Blair admits the defeat of Mr Jospin leaves Britain more isolated in Europe.

However, in the newspaper interview he insisted he would not be deterred from ensuring Britain was a "leading player" in the European Union.

"Any situation in Europe is going to be used by some people opposed to Europe as a reason why Britain shouldn't be a part of Europe... I'm convinced that Britain should be a strong and leading player in Europe.

"I think that is our destiny."


The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has already warned the French experience may prompt far-right groups in Britain to attempt to seize the political momentum during next month's local elections.

And Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith also said extremists had to "be opposed".

Mr Le Pen, who founded the National Front in France, has provoked controversy over a number of outspoken comments.

He described the holocaust as a "detail of history" and claimed that France risked "being submerged" by immigrants.

The far-right's advance in France is being blamed partly on concern about asylum, crime and immigration.

And in Britain on Wednesday, MPs are gearing up to debate a range of tough new measures aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants.

They will discuss a range of proposals including forcing employers to disclose information about foreign employees.

Failure to do so could lead to up to three months in prison.

See also:

23 Apr 02 | Europe
Chirac rejects Le Pen debate
23 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Unity needed against race hate - Straw
24 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blunkett talks tough on asylum
24 Apr 02 | Europe
Le Pen heads for EU showdown
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