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France's best-selling economist Piketty says Labour better for UK

Joseph Bamat, FRANCE 24 | French economist Thomas Piketty at a press conference in Paris on May 6, 2015

Best-selling French economist Thomas Piketty on Wednesday said he supported the Labour Party in Britain’s parliamentary elections, claiming the gap between the rich and poor has grown in recent years under the Conservative government.

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“I think the Labour Party is in a better position than the Conservative Party to promote growth – and equitable growth – with more investment in education and in public services,” Piketty told reporters on Wednesday.

Piketty, whose best-selling book on global inequality “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has made him one of the most talked-about economists on the planet, also said he feared Prime Minister David Cameron’s Tories would lead Britain out of the European Union.

“The Conservative Party’s policies with respect to the European Union strike me as very populist and very dangerous,” Piketty told members of the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris in reference to Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum on exiting the EU in 2017 should he be re-elected.

“Speaking from France I can see that when you don’t manage to solve your domestic social problems it’s always tempting to blame others. So you can blame foreign workers, you can blame Brussels, you can blame Germany, you can blame China, there’s always lots of people to blame for your problems, but that’s not going to solve them,” the star economist added, drawing a parallel between the rise of nationalist, anti-European parties on both sides of the English Channel.

He also said that despite encouraging economic figures coming from Britain, inequality was also on the rise there.

“Overall, yes, I would say [inequality has] grown,” he said. “You know it’s a complicated period because when you have a recession, and then the beginning of a recovery, you have a lot of contradictory movement in the distribution of the country’s wealth. But by and large, yes, it’s grown.”

Piketty endorsed President François Hollande three years ago when he came to power in France, but has since been very critical of the leader’s economic policies. Unlike Britain, France has failed to return to growth or stop rising unemployment since the 2008 economic crisis.

On Wednesday Piketty criticised Hollande’s Socialist government for failing to have a clear economic strategy, increasing taxes on revenue too much, and making tax credits for businesses more complicated than under the previous right-wing government.

Despite concerns Britain would leave the EU, Piketty said the country should be allowed flexibility over its degree of integration.

“The priority should be to accept the idea of building separate political institutions”, he said. “The idea of a one-size-fits-all solution for the 29 countries is clearly an illusion.”

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