LAST Sunday at 7pm, I was completely stunned.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the left-wing coalition, Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP), emerged victorious in the French legislative elections.

Despite all the polls predicting a far-right majority, the left had defied expectations and won – a historic moment after a decade of different outcomes. This surprising turn of events reminded me of just four weeks earlier, right after the June 9 European elections.

President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to dissolve the National Assembly had shocked many, fearing it could pave the way for far-right dominance. The left was taken by surprise, facing an uncertain future.

Yet, in just four short days and nights, the left accomplished the unexpected. They rallied around a shared legislative agenda and unity candidates.

This swift organisation paid off, though after the June 30 elections, doubts lingered over the strength of the Republican front, the political strategy where left-wing and right-wing parties join forces, despite their obvious disagreements, to prevent the far right from winning elections.

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Some on the right equated the radical left of La France Insoumise (LFI), led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, with the far-right threat. For days, it seemed centrists and conservatives underestimated the seriousness of the far-right’s challenge.

But then, the Republican front held firm – and decisively so. The French electorate clearly rejected the far-right’s bid for power.

Let’s break down the results. The NFP won a total of 182 seats. LFI held steady with 74 MPs, almost the same as their 75 seats from 2022. The Socialist Party had a big boost, jumping from 31 seats in 2022 to 59 this time. The Greens also did well, increasing their seats from 23 to 28.

The Communist Party didn’t fare as well, getting only nine seats, which isn’t enough to form an independent group, so they’ll need to team up with other left-leaning independents.

On the other side, the presidential coalition took a major hit, dropping from 246 seats in 2022 to just 168. President Macron’s party, Renaissance, saw a decline from 172 to 102 seats. The French Liberal Democrats went down from 48 to 33 seats, and Horizons, a centre-right party led by former prime minister Edouard Philippe, fell from 30 to 23.

The far-right bloc, led by the National Rally (RN), made big gains, going from 89 seats to 126. Supporters of Eric Ciotti (the Conservative leader who betrayed his own party by announcing an alliance with the RN) added another 17 seats to the far-right total, bringing them to 143 MPs. Meanwhile, the traditional right-wing parties managed to secure 60 seats.

This victory is a reason to celebrate, but it shouldn’t lead to complacency. As French Green leader Marine Tondelier, probably the biggest political revelation of the campaign, wisely noted: “It’s crucial to always remember who elected you, why they did so, and what they expect.”

She is absolutely right.

The victory of the French left, while unexpected, occurred in a nuanced context. This is because the Republican front’s essence lay in uniting to thwart the far-right, rather than endorsing every aspect of the candidates’ platforms.

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These elections saw right-wing voters supporting the radical left and left-wing voters re-electing figures associated with Macron’s presidency, a scenario that would have seemed implausible under different circumstances.

Notably, Macron’s centrists and their allies benefited significantly from the Republican strategy, yet they appear hesitant to acknowledge this support openly.

Crucially, amid the cheers of his narrow victory in the Somme, in the north of France, François Ruffin sounded a serious note: “Let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet. We’ve lost eight points here in two years, and the far-right is gaining ground in our working-class heartlands. Losing the working class is not just about losing elections; for the left, it’s about losing our soul.”

In places such as the Somme, where industries have faded and jobs are scarce, his message hits home. Ruffin challenges everyone, including the president, to see the bigger picture. He’s saying we can’t afford to ignore the hardships faced by ordinary French people, especially outside the big cities. In these divisive times, Ruffin’s words remind left-wing parties that progressive politics should reach every corner of the country, not just the bustling urban hubs.

French citizens, mobilized against the far-right, will be closely observing. They expect their representatives to boldly confront extremism and uphold their collective will. But left-wing voters are going to be vigilant against any compromise that could water down the coalition’s progressive agenda because of pressures from the presidential coalition.

This long-awaited left unity programme champions robust wealth redistribution through a financial transaction tax, promises a higher minimum wage, a rollback of Macron’s pension age increase from 64 to 62, increased public service investment, and steadfast opposition to antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, LGBTQ-phobia, and all forms of hatred and discrimination.

This unprecedented situation requires political maturity from all parties, and from us, the voters. In a country where political confrontation is the norm, accepting that compromise isn’t a betrayal but a necessary step forward will be tough.

The success of this new political era depends on Britain’s leaders finding the right balance between sticking to their principles and governing pragmatically.

The NFP has a chance to set a fresh tone in French politics. They need to strike a balance between staying true to their progressive ideals and engaging in necessary negotiations to achieve legislative success. This requires not just strategic skill but also a genuine willingness to work with political opponents.

The real work begins now in parliament, which has become the new political centre of gravity in France. The NFP must tackle urgent issues like economic inequality, climate change, and social justice.

Every decision will be closely watched, and any perceived failure to deliver on campaign promises could lead to disillusionment among their supporters.

Despite the left’s victory, the significant gains by the far-right cannot be ignored. The RN’s increase in seats reflects growing discontent and polarisation within French society.

This mirrors the political climate in the UK, where Labour face a similar challenge. It’s a victory, but it comes with an urgent need to address the underlying issues driving far-right support.

The situation in France offers a powerful lesson for Labour in the UK. Just as the NFP’s unexpected victory followed a decade of right-wing dominance, Labour’s recent sweeping win comes after one of its worst electoral performances in 2019. This turnaround is cause for celebration, but also a reminder of how precarious political fortune can be.

Labour’s landslide victory reveals significant concerns. The far-right Reform UK party made gains, winning five seats, with Nigel Farage elected and drawing numerous votes from the Tories. This far-right populist party now threatens Labour in its northern working-class strongholds.

Labour also benefited from the SNP’s decline in Scotland, due to scandals and power fatigue.

With only 34% of the vote, Labour secured 65% of the seats. This discrepancy between vote share and parliamentary representation, allowed by the first-past-the-post system, masks the emergence of a multi-party system.

As we reflect on these groundbreaking elections on both sides of the Channel, one lesson stands out: humility is the greatest quality of a winner.

The left’s win, amidst a resurgence of far-right support, highlights the vital importance of staying grounded.

As the Nouveau Front Populaire and the Labour Party step into leadership, they must do so with humility – not just celebrating their success, but humbly recognising the challenges ahead.