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Valls to head new French government

New PM Manuel Valls to head a "fighting government" as President Hollande "opens a new chapter" in French politics

PRESIDENT François Hollande has announced that former interior minister Manuel Valls is France’s new Prime Minister.

The widely expected appointment of Mr Valls, 51, follows the departure of Jean-Marc Ayrault, who tendered his resignation and that of his government earlier this afternoon.

Mr Ayrault’s resignation was confirmed by Matignon shortly before 6pm.

Paying tribute to the former Prime Minister, the President said that Mr Ayrault had undertaken the difficult task of guiding the country out of recession “with courage and selflessness”.

But, in a televised address to the nation, he said: “It is time today to open a new chapter”.

Mr Valls and his so-called “fighting government” had three key tasks, Mr Hollande said: improving the economy, lowering taxes, and “social justice”.

He unveiled a social “Solidarity Pact” to run alongside the controversial “Responsibility Pact”.

He also said that tax cuts will be implemented by 2017, adding, “We are in this for the long haul”.

Acknowledging the swing to the right in the local elections, Mr Hollande said he had heard the message of voters, and insisted that he had not forgotten "those who trusted me, who elected me, or why I have this responsibility”.

He concluded: “I have only one goal - the success of France and the French. This is my mission.”

The day after the disastrous local elections in France was filled with rumours about the future of the Prime Minister. Mr Hollande and Mr Ayrault spoke at length this morning.

Mr Ayrault had earlier acknowledged he and his ministers bore the bulk blame for yesterday’s election debacle, which saw 155 towns swing to the centre-right UMP and the far-right National Front claim 11.

According to environment minister Claude Bartolone, President of the National Assembly Jean-Jacques Urvoas is favourite to succeed Mr Valls as interior minister.

Meanwhile, housing minister Cécile Duflot has already ruled herself out of a place in Mr Valls’ government.

Photo BFM TV / screengrab

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