Tuesday, June 28, in the hemicycle of the National Assembly. José Gonzalez opens the inaugural session of the 16th legislature, as oldest member, at 79 years old. The RN deputy from Bouches-du-Rhône evokes his nostalgia for French Algeria, his uprooted trauma. “I left a part of my France there. I am a man who saw his soul forever bruised by the feeling of abandonment”, says the pied-noir, born in Oran. Marine Le Pen has carefully reread the few pages of speeches by this history of the Lepenist party, a member of the National Front since 1978. “She found nothing wrong with it”, welcomes the speaker, questioned by the press in the great Hall of Lost causes. The boss, on the other hand, did not control her spontaneous exit, in the euphoria of this moment of parliamentary glory. In front of the microphones, the RN deputy blurted out: “Come with me to Algeria, I’ll find you a lot of Algerians who will say to you: ‘When are you coming back, the French?'” Before adding: “I I’m not here to judge whether the OAS has committed crimes or not.” Words from another time, which arouse the discomfort of some elected officials and the beginning of a controversy on the left.

The time, however, is supposed to be normalization at the RN, with 89 elected officials at the Palais-Bourbon and a historic parliamentary group. An unprecedented situation for Marine Le Pen, who wants to make her cohort of deputies a tool to pose in the eyes of the French as a credible and serious party of government, in view of the next presidential election in 2027. As proof: the priority (unsuccessful) granted by the RN to take the helm of the very serious Finance Committee rather than focus on a questoral position. Still it is necessary to succeed in holding its troops and to avoid all exits from the road, amateur remarks or, more seriously, conspiratorial or racist. Whether it concerns invitations to the media or recruitment of collaborators, new employees are placed under close surveillance as much as possible.

First of all, be wary of journalists. “Newcomers have been told not to feel obliged to answer interviews. There can always be the trick question”, specifies Edwige Diaz, deputy for Gironde and regular on the CNews set. Instructions have been passed: do not hesitate to decline an invitation, answer “I don’t know” in case of hesitation, do not speak on the international scene, a “reserved area” of Marine Le Pen, history of avoid dissonant positions on Russia or Ukraine. “Journalists are going to pounce on you, be careful what you say,” party cadres warned at the very first group meeting. As a result, some deputies, such as truck driver Jorys Bovet or engineer Alexandre Sabatou, two men who have never held any political office, have decided not to speak publicly before September. The strict instructions did not help the more timid: “Are we allowed to go into the big room with the journalists?” asked one of them to the spokesperson Philippe Ballard, ex-presenter of LCI, become deputy of the Oise, who welcomes this restraint. “So much the better, caution is the mother of all virtues”, he slips at the bend of a corridor. Internally, the management has identified “a dozen weak or at-risk profiles”, which should be monitored, or even kept away from the lights.

Control is also exercised strictly over the hiring of collaborators, a choice of parliamentarians who are usually sovereign. But the direction of the movement has a habit of taking care of the grain on the profiles of the small hands. A singular custom, but old: it allows the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen to place his men while maintaining control over new entrants to the party. “The guys are already being watched, it’s starting again …”, blows an old party companion, who evokes “a policy of a besieged dungeon in a besieged citadel, which has already existed for years in the European Parliament”. At the Palais-Bourbon, candidates are asked to send their CV to Renaud Labaye, the powerful secretary general of the group, responsible for selecting interesting profiles and directing them to elected officials. Some deputies have thus been suggested to hire former small hands of the campaign. The more the new elected officials are considered “weak” and inexperienced, the more they are automatically assigned collaborators, as much to guide them as to corner them. Finally, those who have done their own casting should submit their candidate to the group’s leadership for verification. Skills, previous commitments, positions on social networks …, the direction of the movement assumes to screen those who arrive outside the Lepenist circuit. “We do it well for ministers, why don’t we check the backgrounds of our collaborators?” pretends to wonder the deputy of the Somme Jean-Philippe Tanguy.

Thus, the deputy of Loiret Thomas Ménagé, who wished to employ a former militant of Debout la France as an assistant, had to send the candidate to pass a “quick additional interview” with Laurent Jacobelli, the spokesman of the movement. Philippe Ballard, he asked Renaud Labaye for permission to hire as a local assistant the ex-collaborator of Agnès Thill, the former antivax deputy excluded from the LREM group. As for Alexandre Sabatou, he justified his choices in writing, by sending the CVs of his future collaborators, his impressions at the end of the interviews and his motivations to Sébastien Chenu, the influential deputy from the North, who referred to the direction. Even Emeric Salmon, the former head of party federations, yet elected regional RN since 2015, is still waiting for his hiring project to be validated: his request is still pending on Thursday, June 30. “You need discipline to lead an army,” assumes Renaud Labaye, trained in command at the school of military officers in Saint-Cyr. Leave to pour into infantilization.

On the WhatsApp loop “Deputies RN – Back to school 2022”, Marine Le Pen’s right-hand man reminds elected officials of the voting instructions and the clothing to be respected – the “tie strategy”, according to the expression of the Minister of Civil Service Stanislas Guerini. Long criticized for the lack of work of her elected officials, Marine Le Pen must regularly answer questions about the weakness of those around her. If she manages to make the RN group a credible and responsible showcase, the MP for Pas-de-Calais hopes to silence these critics forever. To encourage the troops to set an example, the president of the group waved a red rag: the specter of a possible dissolution during the term of office. “Continue to campaign, keep one foot in your constituency”, demanded of them the boss of the RN, the day of the start of the school year. A convenient way, too, to let more capped parliamentarians represent the group in Paris, while the others are asked to travel around France. And a way of placing on the temples of its parliamentarians the threat, barely veiled, of non-reinvestiture in the event of frying on the line.

Because, with such a group, Marine Le Pen will again have to manage differences in position on the merits. She who, during the presidential campaign, had taken care to surround herself only with her faithful after having purged the party of dissidents, finds herself again confronted with the risk of being made a chapel. “Some puppeteers have managed to slip through the cracks,” recalls a deputy, citing in particular Christophe Bentz, founder with Marion Maréchal and Pierre Meurin (deputy of Gard) of ISSEP, in Lyon. Societal debates, too, are feared by some marinists, who fear a fundamental rift between the supporters of the group’s boss and “the traditional Catholics”. “The Laure Lavalette, Hervé de Lépiau and others do not have the same line as Marine Le Pen, on questions related to abortion for example, and in a group, if the debate focuses on these subjects, it is a stain …”, predicts a new elected official. You can be in a tie and not obey the finger and the eye of the boss.