Mayors from the Rassemblement National (RN) have pursued varied approaches to governing since 2014, often characterised as a focus on ‘social’ policies in the north of France and issues of identity in the south. This study uses a three-step approach to explore the nature of this supposed north-south divide in policy approaches. First, we analyse the discourse of the RN local governments, through a quantitative text analysis of five years’ worth of mayoral public statements from nine towns. We show there is a broad range in the salience of ideological themes usually considered central to the mariniste RN: especially, immigration, security and socio-economic policy. Second, we describe the economic and political profile of the areas in the north and south of the country in which the mayoralties are clustered, and thereby posit a connection between the context of the town and the issues emphasised. Third, we narrow the focus on two cases at opposite ends of the spectrum, both geographically and ideologically speaking: Hénin-Beaumont and Fréjus. We analyse in greater depth how the local opportunity structures have indeed led to different discursive approaches in the post-industrial north and prosperous south, and yet many similarities in policy outputs.
Dr. Timothy Peace