French minister Ségolène Royal rebukes George Osborne's "spiteful" mockery of Hollande's economy

Guy Bentley
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French minister rebukes Osborne's "spiteful" remarks (Source: Getty)

During last week's Budget, George Osborne's jokes at France's expense played well in the chamber of the House of Commons - at least among Tory MPs.

The chancellor mocked the opposition for wanting to emulate the French economic model in operation under Francois Hollande. France is beset with high unemployment and low growth and has struggled to cut spending or liberalise the economy.

Osborne taunted Labour, saying Yorkshire had created more jobs in the last three years than had all of France. Few Tories have forgotten how Ed Miliband showered the French leader with praise following his victory on an anti-austerity platform.

After Hollande introduced his now infamous and defunct 75 per cent tax rate on those earning over €1m (£700,000), Miliband said France's socialist government was providing the leadership “sorely needed as Europe seeks to escape from austerity, and it matters to Britain”.

While France's failure may be seen by Tory speech writers as a stick with which to beat Ed Miliband, senior members of the French government aren't exactly taking it on the chin.

Last night, France's environment minister and former Presidential candidate Ségolène Royal said Osborne's remarks were "far removed from the traditional British sense of fair play" and added it was "condescending" and "spiteful" to poke fun at France's economic performance.

She implored a sense of European solidarity and said France did not take pleasure in the fact that Britain's deficit was higher France's.

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