Switched on the radio and there was my brother…

IT’S strange hearing your brother on the radio, talking politics. But if you want to know about French politics, my brother is the go-to man.

He’s a professor of French politics who lives in Lyons. We Brits are not always that interested in the politics of France and sometimes his speciality is not called on so often over here. But when an election looms – and especially such a close and quarrelsome one – he is in demand again.

Last night he was on the BBC PM programme, explaining to presenter Caroline Quinn what might happen after May 7. Caroline is good, but it’s a shame my brother wasn’t talking to Eddie Mair. Eddie is a true star of the airwaves.

Like most people who know about these things, my brother thinks that Emmanuel Macron is likely to beat Marine Le Pen, but believes that difficult political deals may lie ahead in fixing a presidential majority, or something. He spoke well and confidently, but the trouble with hearing your brother on the radio is that you just hear your brother, not the expert in French politics.

There he was, going on about French politics, like he often does. Only this time he wasn’t addressing his family but the nation, or those parts that tune into the PM programme.

There are three Cole brothers and I am the first but perhaps not foremost. Two of us went to the local grammar school, and the third went to the secondary modern. This meant that the professor-in-waiting walked in my shadow for a while, although not for long. At school I was nicknamed Duke, and sometimes my brother was known as “Duke Cole’s little brother”, at least according to memory.

Soon enough he made his own way, and he’s been doing so ever since, far out-running his big brother. And it’s been a while since anyone called me Duke.

That’s the strange thing about growing up, the way you start in a line and end up in such different places. The brother on the BBC is the same little blond boy who went on camping holidays in the back of that Mini-van in the 1960s. The same brother who liked to play football as a lad and was photographed dipped in mud during one match, a picture our mother has on her wall at home.

Anyway, I hope my brother is right about Le Pen not winning. I don’t know much about French politics, but I do know a ruthless right-wing opportunist when I see one.

Never mind the new paint job, Marine Le Pen remains a nasty piece of work, with all her cries of closing borders, stopping immigration and putting France first. It’s tempting to wonder if she pinched that slogan from Donald Trump, but in fairness she’s been saying that acrid stuff for years, long before Trump’s unlikely swerve towards world domination.

Incidentally, I see that Trump is still struggling to raise the funds for that ridiculous wall with Mexico. The Mexican finance minister, Luis Videgaray, has said that his country will never agree to pay for the wall, calling it “hostile” and an “absolute waste of money” – “Under no scenario will we contribute economically to an action of this kind,” he said.

So hopefully that’s another brick not in the wall.

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