France's Macron booed in Le Pen country

Macron arrived at the Whirlpool factory surrounded by a large scrum of reporters

French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron was met Wednesday with boos and chants in favour of his far-right rival Marine Le Pen as he made a chaotic visit to an under-threat factory in northern France.

During the hastily arranged visit, some in the crowd shouted "President Marine!" and booed as the 39-year-old former banker stood outside the Whirlpool appliance factory in the rustbelt city of Amiens.

"I am here to speak to you," said the pro-business former economy minister, ringed by a horde of cameramen and journalists.

The factory operated by Whirlpool, a US multinational company, is threatened with outsourcing to Poland.

Macron was in his hometown of Amiens to try to counter accusations that he had made a complacent start to campaigning for the presidential runoff on May 7 after he finished ahead of Le Pen in the first round on Sunday.

But his trip to the city was upstaged when Le Pen made an unannounced visit to the factory earlier in the day, arriving while he was meeting with workers' representatives elsewhere. She posed for selfies with workers and waved to supporters.

"Everyone knows what side Emmanuel Macron is on -- he is on the side of the corporations," Le Pen said.

"I am on the workers' side, here in the car park, not in restaurants in Amiens."

Macron said after Le Pen's stop that he would also visit the site. He told angry workers at the factory that the only reason she had come was "because I'm here".

He also retorted on Twitter that she had spent "10 minutes with her supporters in a car park in front of the cameras" whereas he had spent "an hour and a half with union representatives and no media".

"Come May 7, everyone will make their choice," he added.

Macron, who created his own centrist movement, was to hold a rally later in nearby Arras, a city in the northern rustbelt where Le Pen topped the first round of voting.

He drew criticism for what some saw as a triumphalist speech and then a celebratory dinner at a Paris bistro on Sunday.

Socialist Party boss Jean-Christophe Cambadelis told French radio: "He was smug. He wrongly thought that it was a done deal."

Macron served as economy minister in the Socialist government before quitting in August to launch his presidential bid.