PARIS (Reuters) - French Environment Minister Segolene Royal criticized her male colleagues on Wednesday, calling them "cocksure machos" who treat her with contempt.
Angry with the resurgence in parliament of a environment tax she wants to bury, Royal, who made a political comeback when she was named minister in March, used a magazine interview to accuse her male colleagues of being patronizing.
"If they think they can muzzle me, they're mistaken. Yes, I do speak my mind. This is my right and I will defend it whatever happens," Royale, the former partner of President Francois Hollande and mother of his four children said in the Paris Match interview.
She denounced a political class she said "was mostly composed of cocksure machos".
Royale, who was first an environment minister 22 years ago and was her Socialist Party's unsuccessful candidate in the 2007 presidential race, is an experienced operator but has a reputation as a poor team-player.
In the interview, she criticized Finance Minister Michel Sapin for siding with a parliament committee which proposed to maintain plans for the controversial green tax on trucks - a line she has opposed.
Royal said Sapin had hidden his close ties to the chairman of that committee. "I had to discover this by chance," she said.
She told reporters the government would take a decision on the tax next month.
Hollande's previous government suspended the planned environmental tax on trucks in October after violent protests in the western Brittany region against the planned levy on heavy goods vehicles which was set to bring in about 1 billion euros per year to help finance mostly rail projects.
In the Paris Match interview, Royal also made comments that put her at odds with Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg on cash-strapped engineer group Alstom.
The offer made by U.S. conglomerate General Electric to take over Alstom's power arm was "a very good opportunity," she said in comments that appeared to counter Montebourg's push for a European tie-up with Germany's Siemens.
The government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls, appointed on March 31 after the ruling Socialists' defeat in local elections, was meant to put an end to frequent squabbles among ministers in Hollande's first government, which was led since his 2012 election by Jean-Marc Ayrault.
(Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Additional reporting by Julien Ponthus; Editing by Angus MacSwan)