Socialist leader caps summer convention with call to fight back

, reporting from La Rochelle – In her closing speech at the summer meeting of the French Socialist Party in La Rochelle, leader Martine Aubry detailed her plans to rescue the party from internal strife and pull the country out of economic crisis.


French Socialist Party head Martine Aubry had opened the “summer university” – an annual conference held in the seaside town of La Rochelle – by nailing down a calendar to discuss party strategy. In her closing speech, she detailed the Socialists' platform to pull the nation out of financial crisis.


As she addressed an audience fired up by earlier speakers, a defiant Aubry expressed her delight in ushering in a new political season for the party and urged French President Nicolas Sarkozy to “borrow a few ideas from the left.”


These included proposals to boost stagnant domestic consumption, such as "a valued added tax rebate of 200 euros for the 16 million middle-income households” that have not benefited from the government's own tax rebates, which Socialists say favour the wealthy.


Accusing the president of laxity on the matter of capping trader bonuses, she echoed the far left in calling for the state to participate in banks’ advisory boards.


On the hot-button matter of the carbon emission tax, she expressed her fears that the revenue it generated would be misused by the government to “reduce the budget deficit or to offset the lowering of business taxes". Aubry here echoed her main party rival, and former presidential candidate, Ségolène Royal, who condemned the tax as “absurd and unjust.”


The missing players


Following the latest show of unity in La Rochelle, France's Socialists will hope to start the new political season in a climate that is less turbulent than last year's. At the very least, Aubry appears to have succeeded in raising the spirits of a rank and file sickened by bickering and backstabbing among party leaders.


Yet, it is unlikely that the seaside gathering will have put an end to the schisms that have plagued the party in recent years. While Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë and former justice minister Elisabeth Guigou were seated in the front row, along with the unpredictable Arnaud Montebourg, the list of senior absentees for Aubry's final appearance was distinctly longer.

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