“My mother was in Auschwitz, so I could not possibly go after Le Pen,” said Christian Eskenazi after casting his vote at Lycée Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington.
The retired former chief sommelier of the Garrick Club said he had no choice but to support Emmanuel Macron for another term.
“I think he’s too arrogant, but I’m pro-European and anti-Le Pen, so I had to go after him. It was not a vote for a politician, it was a vote against an idea.”
Eskenazi added: “My mother survived Auschwitz, but she saw her mother and father die there. She spent her life visiting schools as a witness to racism and xenophobia. She warned of the dangers of voting for the far right and the father is there still. ”
Eskenazi, one of 116,595 French voters registered in the United Kingdom, hopes his fellow citizens will set up an election campaign to stop Le Pen.
There was no sign of support for Le Pen among London voters. After talking to dozens of voters for three hours, the Guardian could not find a single voter for the far-right candidate.
Jada Odero, a political and history student at Manchester University, was offended by being asked how she voted.
“Of course there are no Le Pen supporters,” she said, “we are in multicultural London and she is just against it.”
In 2017, Macron won 95% of London’s French votes against Le Pen after winning 51.4% in the first round. This time he could do even better here after winning 55% of the preferences in the first round. Meanwhile, Le Pen came in a distant seventh place in the first round with just 2.63% across the UK.
But Odero is worried that Le Pen’s popularity is rising in France. She said: “It will not happen this time, but her statistics are getting higher – people seem to be becoming more and more ignorant.”
Benjamin Fourmond, an IT employee in London from Blois, agreed. “If anyone voted for Le Pen here, they probably would not tell you. I’m more worried that Le Pen will win in five years, because Macron will not be able to run then, and she will still be there, and it’s really scary. “
Fourmond voted for the green candidate, Yannick Jadot, in the first round. He said: “I do not think Macron has done much for the environment. But he chose not to do anything about nuclear power plants, which in hindsight was probably a good move.”
In the first round, more than one in five English-based French expats voted for the left-leaning candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who only narrowly needed to get to the last two.
Among them was marketing director Michel Lieke, who said he was attracted to Mélenchon’s promise to write off the debts of African nations to France.
On Sunday, he voted for Macron to block Le Pen. “Working and paying taxes for anyone with an immigrant background will not be straightforward if Le Pen wins.”
Dual national sisters Manon, 21, and Léa Kilvington, 18, from Chertsey, Surrey, were thrilled to vote for the first time.
Manon said: “I have heard that many young people support Le Pen in France. There is no way we can let Le Pen come to power so we would make an effort to get out and vote.”
Fatmire Bega-Shala, a French teacher at Feltham, also turned out to be blocking Le Pen after worrying memories of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.
She said: “My family is originally from Kosovo, and when I was growing up in France in the late ’70s and’ 80s, it was pretty scary to hear about Le Pen and the National Front. We tried to be a part of it. “and he was not accommodating. It is now important to stop his daughter.”
Some of the voters who came from the Lycée polling station were more positive towards Macron. French teacher Michelle Pickard said: “First priority is to block Le Pen, but I very much agree with Macron’s policy and he is a true European and so am I. If he wins, it will be a small victory and he will be have to take on board all those voters who are not happy with him. ”
Francesca Beausang, an urban economist, was closely allied with Macron. She looked behind the Chanel sunglasses and said, “Macron fits my personal values. In 2017, I bought into the whole centrist argument he presented. And he did pretty well in terms of handling Covid. He also did well in the debate, while Le Pen seemed to me absolutely toxic. “
“No one in their right mind buys that she is different from her father.”
Laurence Bemsafi, who also works with finance in the city, said Macron is popular in London because he is both pro-business and for social justice.
She said, “I think he will cope, and I’m not trying to think of the worst.”