Thursday 2 February 2017 4:01 am

As scandal hits the frontrunner for the French presidency Francois Fillon, is this good news for Marine Le Pen?

Dylan Kissane, a France-based writer and director at The CoSMo Company, says Yes.

After five years of mismanagement by Francois Hollande’s Socialist left, the electorate in France is primed for change.

Until recently, Francois Fillon seemed to be the natural choice: a known quantity on the centre-right, a devout Catholic, and the man endorsed by Les Républicains as the best bet to set France on a desperately needed new course. But with the scandal over payments made to his wife sowing seeds of doubt, the presumption that he would defeat front-runner Marine Le Pen in the second round of presidential voting is looking shaky.

If Fillon falls to the wayside and the far-left socialist challenger Benoit Hamon proves equally unelectable, who is left to challenge the leader of Front National? With Emmanuel Macron the only other serious contender for the second round, Le Pen will be feeling confident this week that her chances of winning the country’s top job have only been improved by Fillon’s poorly timed problems.

Denis MacShane, the UK’s former Europe minister who regularly writes and comments on French media, says No.

The revelations that Francois Fillon has been using parliamentary funds to pay his wife and family are now getting so strong and so reeking that it is hard to see how he can continue. Fillon portrayed himself as Monsieur Irréprochable, France’s Mr Clean, and now he has been infected by the English MPs’ disease of putting wives, sons and daughters on the parliamentary payroll.

But Marine Le Pen has similar problems. Yesterday, the European Parliament demanded she pay back €300,000 she took in parliamentary expenses and used to pay two associates who did party political work. She is up to her ears in dodgy loans from Kremlin controlled banks and any spotlight on exotic political money changing hands catches her in its beam.

The main beneficiary is Emmanuel Macron, the new boy on the French block offering a pro-reform, pro-EU, pro-market new beginning. He is a rich banker so doesn’t need to help himself from parliamentary funds.