PARIS — The National Rally stripped MEP Nicolas Bay of all his official roles within the party on Tuesday over allegations he was sharing campaign information with Marine Le Pen’s rival Eric Zemmour.
In a statement sent to party managers, the far right party’s executive committee said they had received “confirmation that Nicolas Bay was taking advantage of his presence in the top committees of the campaign in order to transmit strategic and confidential elements … to our direct rival Eric Zemmour.”
Zemmour, a former TV pundit and anti-immigration hardliner, emerged as a surprise presidential candidate in November last year, promising a no-holds-barred approach to immigration and law and order. It was an open secret in French political circles that Bay is about to switch sides and back Zemmour, the latest in a series of defections that have included Senator Stéphane Ravier and MEPs Gilbert Collard and Jérôme Rivière.
Bay was a spokesperson for Le Pen’s presidential campaign.
Insiders within the National Rally accused him and others, including Ravier and Rivière, of spacing out their departure from the party in order to destabilize Le Pen’s campaign.
“We’ve got to stop [Zemmour’s] circus and these antics,” said one of Le Pen’s top campaign managers. “For the past five weeks, every weekend they try and disrupt our campaign in some way or another. It’s incredible.”
Bay’s alleged leaks have “allowed [Zemmour’s campaign team] to disrupt campaign events. This completely immoral behavior is a real work of sabotage,” the party leadership wrote in their statement.
On Tuesday, Bay denied any misconduct on Twitter, writing that “the accusation is offensive.”
“I don’t take part in any campaign committees, how would I have been able to transmit so-called ‘strategic information,’” he wrote. He alleges he was kicked out because he requested a meeting with the top brass of the party to discuss the “crisis” facing the National Rally.
Relations between Bay and the leadership have been extremely tense since he refused to say clearly whether he would back Le Pen in April’s presidential election at a get-together of European nationalist and far-right movements in Madrid.
Bay’s discontent with the party has been simmering for a long time, ever since he was removed from the vice-presidency of the party in 2018, and later kicked out of the committee in charge of nominating candidates.
Bay is expected to join Zemmour’s party in the coming days. The former polemicist is planning a visit and a public rally in Normandy on Saturday — which happens to be Bay’s home turf.