Ségolène Royal suffered another setback in her campaign to become France’s first woman president on Thursday after one of her top advisers resigned.

Ms Royal’s aides said Eric Besson, the Socialist party’s national secretary for the economy and tax, resigned after a disagreement over when to reveal the cost of her manifesto promises.

Mr Besson, who was responsible for putting a price tag on the manifesto, defied others in Ms Royal’s team by announcing it would cost €35bn ($46bn, £23.4bn). Others in the campaign team had wanted to delay releasing the figure.

Her manifesto pledges increases for the minimum wage, small pensions, and education, health and justice, while upping state hand-outs for research, first-time housebuyers and the young.

Mr Besson said he wanted to spend more time in his constituency and the town of Donzère, where he is mayor. But a spokesman for Ms Royal said he left after clashing with François Hollande, her party leader, partner and father of their four children.

Ms Royal had hoped to regain momentum this week after presenting her long-awaited manifesto in a speech on Sunday. In-stead, the media focused on the turbulence around her campaign and the criticism that there was no coherent plan to finance her programme.

The Socialists seemed in disarray on Thursday. Le Monde reported members of Ms Royal’s campaign complaining of “amateurism” and “disorganisation”. Mr Besson is reported to have told a party meeting shortly before quitting: “You lot are a pain in the neck.”

Nicolas Sarkozy, Ms Royal’s centre-right rival, suggested her campaign was unravelling. “France does not deserve an isolated man or an isolated woman . . . If you unite your family, you can unite France,” he said on a visit to the French Indian Ocean island of Ré-union.

Julian Dray, Ms Royal’s communications director, on Thursday complained of a systematic bias against the Socialist party candidate in the French media, which was the result of the “friendships and alliances” between press barons and rightwing politicians.

He accused some polling organisations and news-papers of manipulating data. “We consider that there is an organised distortion of opinion,” he said. He attempted to play down Mr Besson’s resignation, saying: “This is not a problem of Ségolène Royal but of the party secretary and the party.”

One senior French official criticised both leading candidates for resorting to populist spending promises and failing to explain how they would improve France’s economic performance, one of the weakest in Europe last year, with growth of only 2 per cent. “All the emphasis has been on redistribution and too little attention has been paid to wealth creation,” the official said.

Ms Royal expanded on her ideas in Paris Match on Thursday, saying: “The countries who have made the quality of social dialogue the key to their competitiveness, and ended the postures of conflict and confrontation, have drawn great advantages.” She contrasted Mr Sarkozy’s “logic of confrontation” with her plan to “ensure that everyone has the same starting conditions to succeed in life”.

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