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French press review 9 April 2014

PSG gets a bad write-up. Manuel Valls gets a mainly good one. And the Catholic church debates how to handle its far-right fringe.

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Le Monde's website gives pride of place to last night's defeat of local football club Paris St Germain by Londoners Chelsea in the race for a place in the last four of the European Champions League.

Sports daily L'Equipe says the Parisians were taught a lesson last night and are still not good enough to compete at the top level in Europe.

That story takes precedence over yesterday's presentation of his policies by the new French prime minister, Manuel Valls. Le Monde calls the speech "ambitious", saying the key elements involved reducing expenditure, helping businesses, diversifying France's energy sources and simplifying the local government structure, notably by getting rid of the départements.

The centrist paper does its own little press review, saying that this morning's papers are broadly approving of Valls's performance.

That all depends on where you look.

"A change of tone!" is Aujourd'hui en France's main headline, with the small print saluting the prime minister's determination and the scale of his promised reforms. This is a real turning-point in the Hollande presidency, according to the tabloid.

Steady on, says right-wing Le Figaro. This was just the same old Hollande, dressed up in a new prime minister's suit. What happened to Manuel Valls, wonders Le Figaro, the paper that only yesterday was praising the new government leader as a right-wing Socialist . . . tough on immigration, with no time for weak-kneed penal reform, opposed to the 35-hour working week, on first name terms with several of the nation's top earners.

What we needed, says the right-wing paper, was a fighter, a realist, a man to put manners on the unwashed. What we got was a performance aimed, primarily, at keeping the various factions in the Socialist Party from coming to blows.

At the other end of the political spectrum, L'Humanité was less than impressed by Valls's first steps.

The communist daily says yesterday's vote of confidence in the new prime minister should not be allowed mask the fact that a great many French left-wingers are deeply unhappy. He's going ahead with the deal with employers which, basically, offers lower charges in exchange for more jobs. The central problem, which wasn't addressed, is where the 50 billion euros needed to finance that scheme (and meet various budgetary demands from Brussels) are going to come from.

L'Humanité's editorial says it all adds up to more cash gifts for the bosses, more grief for the struggling poor.

Speaking of whom, the printed edition of Le Monde - which went to press before the prime minister's speech - gives its main headline to the tragic fact that one young French person in five is condemned to the dole queue, 22 per cent of those under the age of 25 are still out of work three years after leaving school.

Libération thinks there were too many holes in the prime minister's speech, so they relegate it to an inside page and give pride of place to the problem of the French Catholic church in the face of the rise of far-right activism among practising Catholics.

A certain number of far-right Catholic were able to flex their political muscle in last year's uncivil war over who should be allowed to marry whom. The problem, says Libé, is that these hardliners are now threatening to make their message the only one that gets heard. The French bishops are currently meeting in the south-western French city of Lourdes to discuss this ultra-reactionary tendency and other problems.

The majority of France's Catholics are right-wing supporters, according to statistics published in Libé, with a small but increasing proportion voting for Marine Le Pen's Front National.

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