PARIS — French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has pushed back against claims the government was mollycoddling the public over how to save energy, after a backlash over the sudden appearance of cabinet members in winter garb indoors this week.
“I’ll wear what I want,” Le Maire told French media Brut Thursday, denying that ministers were posing in rollnecks and puffer jackets as part of a deliberate communications campaign. “It’s not up to a minister to tell French people how to dress,” he said.
Earlier this week, Le Maire was one of several government members who seemingly encouraged the French to turn down the heat and wear woolly clothes to lower energy bills, as the country faces energy shortages this winter amid the war in Ukraine.
When Le Maire was asked Tuesday whether government buildings were cutting down on heating, he responded, “You’ll no longer see me in a tie, but a rollneck,” before showing off said rollneck on Twitter.
Cue a press conference given by Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne in a puffer jacket, and an appearance by Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher in a blazer, on top of a puffer jacket, on top of a rollneck.
Opposition leaders condemned this as patronizing, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeting, “Don’t have enough heating? Let them wear cashmere,” in a reference to Marie-Antoinette’s infamous attitude.
Among the political reaction, former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin called the wardrobe transformation “politics for dummies,” while François Hollande’s former communications adviser Gaspard Gantzer called it “paternalistic.”
Twitter, of course, produced endless memes.
“Bruno Le Maire talks to journalists next week”
“Ministers arrive at their Wednesday meeting”
Cécile Duflot, who was housing minister under Socialist Party President François Hollande, unexpectedly came to Le Maire’s aid on Friday, calling it a “PR stunt, but a good one” in an interview with Public Sénat, and donning a dressing gown in solidarity.
The government could argue it was simply following the recommendation of experts, too. French energy transition NGO Négawatt published a report this week suggesting the government campaign to encourage people to wear “warm winter clothes” inside.
French government ministries will unveil new “energy sobriety” plans next Thursday.