Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is targeting Right-wing voters in an attempt to capitalise on the rout of France’s conservatives in the European elections and lure them into backing his centrist party.
Right-wing leaders believe he is bent on destroying the main opposition party, The Republicans, now in the throes of a crisis comparable to that of Britain’s Conservatives.
Gérard Larcher, the Republican speaker of France’s Senate, is fighting back by embarking on an ambitious mission this week to re-invent the centre-Right and form a new breakaway group.
Mr Larcher sees little prospect of a Republican comeback under the leadership of Laurent Wauquiez, a polarising hardliner who espouses policies close to those of Marine Le Pen, the far-Right leader.
Mr Larcher, 69, will chair a meeting of influential Right-wingers and centrists on Tuesday in a bid to begin forming a new, broad-based conservative party.
The Republicans, once seen as the natural party of government, took only 8.5 per cent of the vote in the European elections, an even more humiliating defeat than that suffered by the UK Conservative Party.
Across Europe, the centre-Right has lost support as voters have drifted towards fringe parties.
Mr Macron is aiming to co-opt Republican party officials before local elections next year. Sébastien Lecornu, a former Republican now serving as his minister for local communities, told conservative mayors this weekend: “Quit The Republicans… Put your energy into helping us rebuild the country rather than your party.”