There were rare scenes of uproar in the French parliament when a question time session ended in insults, walkouts and new doubts about the prime minister’s future. It came after the leader of the opposition Socialists, Francois Hollande, challenged Dominique de Villepin over industrial problems at plane-maker Airbus.
He stirred Villepin’s anger by asking him if he still stood by the company’s co-chief executive, who is said to be friend of the conservative premier. In what is regarded as a stinging insult in French political life Villepin responded by accusing Hollande of cowardice, repeating the world several times.
Socialist party members stormed out, but some of Villepin’s centre-right colleagues also quit the chamber, expressing their shock.
“I’m not proud to have lived through that moment, so I left,” one said.
Another suggested he should resign. The incident is likely to further undermine Villepin’s political stock. His candidacy for the conservative nomination in next year’s presidential election has been damaged by a series of scandals and rows within his own party.