Distraught left-wingers tell reeling President François Hollande to dismiss Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, as 'blood sacrifice' after calamitous municipal elections

With Mr Hollande’s approval rating in the low twenties and unemployment frozen at around 10 per cent, left-wing losses were inevitable

Paris

President François Hollande is under pressure to dismiss his Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, as a “blood sacrifice” after the calamitous outcome of municipal elections last Sunday.

Mr Hollande was obliged to swap an international crisis for a domestic one, abandoning a global summit in The Hague that had been dominated by discussion of Ukraine a day earlier than scheduled.

Senior Socialist figures are demanding a change of government – and the metaphorical public beheading of Mr Ayrault – once the full extent of left-wing losses and right and far-right gains is known after the second round of elections this weekend.

The Employment Minister, Michel Sapin – a close friend and ally of Mr Hollande – has called publicly for “change”. His comments were echoed by the outgoing Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, and the former Employment Minister and Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry.

All three have been touted at different times as possible prime ministers. President Hollande, if he does act, is reported to favour the promotion of the energetic, reformist Interior Minister, Manuel Valls. To the fury of left-wingers, this would signal no change in Mr Hollande’s new policies of steep cuts in public spending and market-oriented economic reforms.

Sacrificing a prime minister is a traditional response to public fury and disaffection in France. With spending cuts of €50bn (£42bn) due to be presented in the next few weeks, the fund of popularity for any new prime minister is unlikely to last  for long.

Jean-Marc Ayrault has been accused of lacking direction (Getty) Jean-Marc Ayrault has been accused of lacking direction (Getty)
Mr Valls, 51, has been described as a “Nicolas Sarkozy of the left” – a calculating, plain-talking, ambitious man who has annoyed some left-wingers by taking a tough line on immigration and crime.

Two years after the election of Mr Hollande, the centre-left’s nationwide score slumped to 38 per cent in the first round of the local elections on Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of left-wing electors failed to vote or switched to the right or far right.

Marine Le Pen’s National Front captured one town hall and may take up to five more this weekend. The centre-right is likely to recapture scores of towns from the left, including two large cities, Toulouse and Strasbourg.

With Mr Hollande’s approval rating in the low twenties and unemployment frozen at around 10 per cent, left-wing losses in the first mid-term election of his presidency were inevitable. Socialist politicians had not foreseen the extent of Sunday’s rout, nor the breakthrough of the National Front, which topped the poll in 15 small or medium-sized towns.

None of this is the Prime Minister’s fault alone. Mr Ayrault spent his first 18 months in office delivering the shuffling reforms and tax rises promised by Mr Hollande in his 2012 campaign. He has attempted to deliver the more ambitious economic reforms and spending cuts promised by the President in January.

Mr Ayrault is mostly accused of failing to sell the policies or give the French people a sense of direction. The same criticism is made of Mr Hollande. “If you have a calm and colourless President, you can’t also have a calm and colourless Prime Minister,” one Socialist parliamentarian said.

Mr Ayrault, previously Mayor of Nantes and the Socialist Party parliamentary leader, may have sealed his fate with a dull and stumbling TV address on Sunday night as the bad results poured in.

President Hollande is believed to have wanted to delay any change of government until European elections in late May, which are likely to be even more disastrous for the left. Unless disaffected voters turn out in greater numbers for Sunday’s second round – which seems unlikely – he will be under intense pressure to fire Mr Ayrault next week.

“As things stand,” one Socialist adviser said, “we could come fourth in the European elections behind the National Front, the centre-right and the Greens.”

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Research Executive - Quantitative/Qualitative

£27000 - £31000 Per Annum Excellent Benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

ETL Developer / Consultant

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Geography Teacher, Immediate start, Dover School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is urgently s...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week