Her previous attempts last June at forming a group had failed as she managed to only attract the 4 Dutch PVV of Geert Wilders, the 5 Italian Lega Nord, the 4 Austrian FPO and the 1 Belgian Vlams Belang. Needing 7 nationalities to meet the criteria, she has managed to win over 2 Polish far right MEPs (Michal Marusik and Stanislaw Zoltek) from the KNP and a former UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson, who was suspended by UKIP following an expenses scandal. There is some ironic symmetry in Le Pen reaching the threshold thanks to a UKIP defector given that Nigel Farage’s EFDD owed its own formation to a dissident member of the French FN and was then later saved by the admission of another Pole from the KNP.
To add to the intrigue, Jean-Marie le Pen and Bruno Gollnish will not join the new Group.
Today’s press conference was interesting in that the two women on the podium both declared their admiration for Margaret Thatcher. Le Pen said she felt she shared the same courage and determination to fight for her people as the Iron lady. Janice Atkinson went a step further and said the two women she admired most in politics were Thatcher and Le Pen. When asked if she was worried about anti-Semitism in the new party, Atkinson replied that the expulsion of Jean-Marie Le Pen had made it easier to join.
Forming the group will give the members access to public funding, staff and more speaking time in plenary. It will remain to be seen if Marine Le Pen gets to sit on the front row with other group leaders in plenary, which would put her next to Nigel Farage.