French PM booed by young Socialists as party split over pro-business policy

LA ROCHELLE, France - Young Socialist Party members booed the French prime minister at a party dinner on Saturday, calling for the resignation of his economy minister, whom they accuse of favouring business over Socialist ideals, participants said on Sunday.

The young Socialists are known to be well to the left of the party mainstream and others did not join in with their jeering. But the hecklers are not the only ones who object to the government's economic policy that includes tens of billions of tax cuts for businesses.

Many hardcore PS members are uneasy about Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, who epitomises the pro-business approach adopted by President Francois Hollande at the beginning of 2014.

France's economy slowed to a standstill in the second quarter and pressure for Hollande to change tack is growing as parties begin to gear up for the 2017 presidential elections.

"They shouted 'Macron resign'," party member Marise Faye said of a group of youths at the Socialist Party's (PS) annual end-of-summer meeting, which is held behind closed doors.

While Faye was not one of the hecklers, she became uneasy when asked what she thought of Macron, shaking her head when asked again if she liked him.

Macron on Thursday criticised Socialists' treasured 35-hour working week saying the party had been mistaken in thinking that France would fare better if people worked less, a move decried as a "provocation" by PS secretary-general Jean-Christophe Cambadelis.

A party spokeswoman confirmed there had been "a few boos"from members of the party's youth group when Prime Minister Manuel Valls walked through the room. The jeering did not last long, those attending at the dinner said.

Macron did not take part in the three-day PS meeting in La Rochelle, a town on the Atlantic coast, but the former banker turned economy minister was the focus of many discussions.

Hollande has managed to contain rebellion in PS ranks over his policies, but discontent persists, and backbenchers keep pressing for fewer tax cuts for businesses and more help for households.

Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have said they would stick to their policy of putting a lid on public spending, which is required to meet EU budget targets. However, Hollande showed he is willing to compromise when he announced that the 2016 budget would contain tax cuts for households.