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Bannon: 'Let them call you racists'

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French far-right seeks second wind at watershed conference

Steve Bannon, a right-wing firebrand and former member of President Donald Trump's inner circle, voiced support for France's far-right politics and its embattled leader at a National Front (FN) party conference in Lille on Saturday.

Marine Le Pen will try to shore up her damaged leadership of the National Front by relaunching the party under a new, less sulphurous name.

"Let them call you racists, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativists, wear it as a badge of honor", Bannon told members of the anti-mass immigration party in video published by The Washington Post. "Wear it as a badge of honour because every day we get stronger and they get weaker".

Bannon has already spoken in Zurich, Switzerland at an event organized by a conservative publication, and on Saturday headlined the annual conference for France's National Front.

At a news conference following his speech, Bannon gave his explanation for the recent high-profile staff departures from the White House.

He said that Bannon understood like Trump, Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen that people want to control their own destiny.

Bannon added that the pivot was partly in order to prepare for the upcoming midterm elections. He was sacked in August over incendiary comments he made in a book about Trump's White House.

Bannon was forced out of the White House in August and returned to Breitbart, where he had been executive chairman since 2012.

Bannon's visit to France is the third stop on his European tour.

Ten months since losing the presidential election, the 49-year-old MP has promised a "cultural revolution" at a two-day congress in Lille to broaden the appeal of the far-right party that was launched in 1972 by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

"You recall the evening of the American election, the traditional medias were shocked. She's one of the most impressive people in the entire world", Bannon told reporters without mentioning his host Marine Le Pen. The younger Le Pen has said the proposed name change is needed to show that the party had become "adult", The Guardian reported.

But Mr. Bannon, who said he was paying for the trip, said he was weighing whether to buy a name-brand outlet, like Newsweek or United Press International, or to start a new one, or to connect entrepreneurs with capital or invest himself. The proposal she plans to make at the party congress Sunday symbolizes the ongoing makeover to rescue the National Front from the political netherworld it plummeted into after Le Pen lost last year's presidential election to Emmanuel Macron.

The new moniker, if approved by members during a mail-in vote, will mark the ultimate break with Le Pen's father, who has called the idea a betrayal.

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