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Valls defends 'modern' economic policy after Socialist revolt

media French Prime Minister Manuel Valls addresses the National Assembly on Tuesday Reuters/Charles Platiau

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended his “deeply modern” economic policy on Wednesday, the day after 41 MPs from his Socialist Party refused to back a cuts package that finances reductions in taxes for business.

Describing his policies as social-democratic and reformist, Valls told France Inter radio he was proud of a “this deeply modern left, which faces up to reality and at the same time wants to respond to expectations of social justice”.

“I don’t think being left-wing means passing on debt to future generations,” he told a caller who had said that left-wing supporters felt betrayed by his policies. “I don’t think being left-wing means raising taxes and smothering the middle class.”

Valls’s proposals to finance 50-billion-euros-worth of cuts in payroll and other taxes for business were passed by the National Assembly ion Tuesday with 265 voting for, 232 against and 67 abstaining.

While the mainstream right UMP voted against, most of the centre-right abstained.

On the left the Communists, Left Party and the majority of the Greens voted against, while 41 Socialists abstained.

Valls had tried to head off the revolt by easing a freeze on pensions, so that the five million poorest pensioners would be exempt, allowing inflation-linked pay rises for low-paid public-sector workers and promising to revalue minimum income support for the long-term unemployed.

But that was not enough for the 41, some of whom are supporters of his rival, Martine Aubry.

They were reeling from the results of recent local council elections, in which the Socialists suffered serious losses, and felt that the party had not kept its promises during its first two years in power, left-wing Socialist Christian Paul said after the vote in parliament.

Mainstream right leader Jean-François Copé judged the abstentions a “very important reverse” for the prime minister.

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