France’s finance minister has sparked fury after urging French voters to follow his example by ditching formal tie and shirt attire in favour of warm woollen polo neck sweaters to save on energy bills. Bruno Le Maire wants civil servants and other office workers to follow a trend that he and Emmanuel Macron adopted two winters ago. He told France Inter radio: “You will no longer see me with a tie but with a turtleneck. And I think it will be very good, it will allow us to save energy, to show sobriety.”
Mr Le Maire later posted a picture to his Twitter account, smiling and dressed in a black turtleneck as he looked down at his mobile phone.
The French finance minister said his government department located in the French capital of Paris will “not put on the heating until the temperature drops below 19C”.
He added he hopes to set an example for the French who have been recently warned to save energy and avoid unnecessary wastage.
But the comments from Mr Le Maire have sparked a furious reaction from some French voters – particularly after households were advised earlier this summer not to turn their heating up above 19C.
Nathalie Oziol (@NathalieOziol), a member of the National Assembly of France, raged: “The sinking of this government.
“Twelve million people suffered from the cold last winter, the price of heating will reach unprecedented heights and Bruno Le Maire is laughing in his turtleneck. Their contempt is unbearable!”
“Kiki Eauclaire” (@EauclaireKiki) fumed: “It would be nice not to take us too much for morons.
“The cars run in the yard in the summer for the air conditioning so that these ladies and gentlemen don’t get too hot and you think we’re going to swallow the turtleneck in the office for this winter.”
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Mr Le Maire had been responding to a backlash over the use of air conditioning at his ministry in the Bercy district in Paris during the recent summer heatwaves.
In July, French newspaper Le Parisien reported that “the air-con is on max at Bercy” – despite pressure from Mr Macron to the French to save energy.
The government was also blasted after a video emerged showing parked ministerial cars after a Cabinet meeting waiting in the courtyard of the Élysée palace with the engines running to ensure cool temperatures within the vehicles.
Earlier this summer, Mr Macron called for a “new sobriety” in France to cope with the energy crunch as the country braced for a bitterly cold winter as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues to rage.
Households have been urged not to turn their heating up above 19C, with the rule made compulsory in public buildings – except for hospitals and retirement homes.
France is much less dependent on gas from Russia than the likes of Germany but is still taking strict measures to try and manage the energy crisis over the bitterly cold months.
Next month, French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne is expected to announce measures to cut the national energy bill by up to 10 percent during the winter to avoid any national blackouts.
Businesses and various industries will be set targets, while ministries have been told to reduce their overall energy consumption by at least 10 percent over the next couple of years.