France’s far-right patriarch, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and his daughter and heir, Marine Le Pen, are supposedly not on speaking terms. And yet earlier this year, they appeared side-by-side for almost two hours before a magistrate in a secret arbitration hearing in which the elder Le Pen rose to defend the younger.
At issue were the taxes owed on some of the Le Pen family’s properties: chiefly, the sprawling mansion and estate of Montretout in the swank Saint-Cloud district west of Paris, where Marine Le Pen grew up and where her father still lives. France’s tax office claimed that Le Pen and her father had underestimated by millions of euros the value of the dynasty’s real estate. Should she be found to have done so, Marine Le Pen would not only be hit with a hefty tax bill, and another inconvenient political scandal amid mounting investigations into her and her party’s financial affairs, she could potentially even face prison time.
And so Le Pen père came to his daughter’s rescue. As Le Monde reported last month, “for almost two hours, one and then the other, assisted by their lawyers, pleaded their common case on the value of Montretout.” Jean-Marie Le Pen testified on behalf of himself and Marine Le Pen that the family estate was not worth nearly as much as French authorities claim. Le Monde noted that “so much are their assets entangled” — father and daughter are also co-owners of another clan home in the Upper Seine region outside Paris — the pair “were obliged to get along.” The Journal du Dimanche reported the Le Pens even “embraced each other out of courtesy.”
The events at the hearing run directly contrary to Marine Le Pen’s preferred narrative about her leadership of the National Front. She portrays the moment, in 2011, that she took control of the party from her father as a break from what came before — the beginning of a process of dédiabolisation or “de-demonization” of a group formerly notorious for its…