FRANCE'S new Prime Minister has taken office and dived straight into a huge and thankless challenge:

bringing back investors, jobs and hope to Europe's second-biggest economy.

Socialist President Francois Hollande, in need of a boost for his image and his country after a huge poll setback at the weekend in town hall elections, named Manuel Valls as Prime Minister.

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Mr Valls is an energetic, popular figure seen as the most right-leaning politician in the Socialist leadership.

He angered those on the left of Mr Hollande's party by leading a tough line on crime and on Roma people as interior minister, with frequent raids on their communities and repatriations.

Mr Valls took over yesterday from Jean-Marc Ayrault, who struggled to keep his ministers in line and to persuade the French his government was making the right economic decisions.

One of the first tasks for Mr Valls was to name a new government, with changes particularly expected in the Finance Ministry.

He was born in Barcelona in 1962 and became naturalised as French 20 years later.