Digested week: Liz Truss emerges after disastrous mini-budget with little to say | Emma Brockes

While the British PM was choosing her words carefully, politicians in France were letting their clothes do the talking


While the British government responds to soaring energy prices with the canny distraction-technique of tanking the entire economy, the French – those smooth operators – slip into something warmer and more comfortable. Emmanuel Macron, having lately outgrown his Zelenskiy tribute wardrobe, is still in traditional workwear, but other members of the president’s government have been rocking something closer to country-casual this week, in an effort to encourage shivering French people to layer up rather than turn on the heating.

Here is Élisabeth Borne, the French prime minister, showing up to several meetings in a quilted jacket, the chic and fitted French version of the spherical Zeppelin-size puffer favoured by the British. So, too, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the energy transition minister, who went one further and paired her slim-fit polar tech outerwear with a polo neck base layer.

It was left to Bruno Le Maire, the economics and finance minister, to explain what was going on, posting a picture of himself on social media looking jolly in a turtleneck, with the words: “You won’t see me in a tie any more, you’ll see me in a turtleneck. And I think it will be very good, it will allow us to save energy.” This was, in a way, true, since the heat generated by anger, ridicule and furious indignation on the part of the French population could, by the end of the week, have fuelled several power stations free of charge. Marine Le Pen, reminding us that whatever you say about far-right politicians they can turn a populist phrase, summed up the government’s approach to soaring energy costs with “let them wear cashmere”.

If there’s a lesson in all this for Liz Truss, she will, of course, miss it, although it is pleasing to imagine her bundled up in a puffer jacket the size of an inflatable sumo suit and being rolled down Whitehall, never to trouble the electorate again.


Fox News goes big on that hardy perennial, the threat of tampered-with Halloween candy. In my day, the urban legend was razor blades hidden in mini Mars bars. This Tuesday, Dana Perino, the resident fantasist for Fox News, describes a hellscape Halloween turned reality in which “moms and dads everywhere are really worried their kids will end up with these bags of Nerd candies and they will find their child dead”.

She’s talking about “rainbow fentanyl”, about which the Drug Enforcement Agency in the US has issued a warning. Fentanyl is extremely dangerous and overdoses are common. Rainbow fentanyl is the drug in brightly coloured pill form, causing a panic in some quarters of the US media for, Chris Morris-style, “targeting young people.”

Even if this is the case, Perino’s candy analogy is puzzling. It’s clear it’s been a while since she ate a box of Nerds. For those still buying them, the tiny nuggets of popping candy bear no resemblance to rainbow fentanyl pills, which appear to be the size of horse tranquilizers. Skittles, perhaps, or M&Ms, but not Nerds, which look less like pills than fluorescent gravel.

Unclearer still is where she thinks your Nerd-eating child will lay his hands on this product, the implication being that your local drug dealer, answering the door during trick or treating, will mischievously hand them over to your child instead of the traditional candy. A gram of fentanyl has a street price of between $150-$200. A pack of Nerds is $1.50. You do the math.


Compared to the UK, the US appears to be in extremely safe hands right now, in spite of occasional lapses by President Biden. Nothing as weird as Trump’s inability to drink water from a bottle or adhere to the basic rules of western democracy. But during a speech in Washington DC on Wednesday, the president did, unfortunately, call for comment on representative Jackie Walorski – “Jackie? Where’s Jackie?” – the congresswoman from Indiana who died in a car crash last August. This might’ve been more explicable if Biden hadn’t spoken to her brother by phone in the days after the accident.

The late congresswoman’s brother, Keith, told reporters that Biden is “doing the best he can do with what he’s got right now,” which was gracious if not wholly reassuring. Meanwhile Karine Jean-Pierre, the Whitehouse press spokeswoman, peddled for all she was worth to pull off a difficult save. “The president had already planned to welcome the congresswoman’s family to the White House on Friday,” she said, “so of course, she was on his mind. She was top of mind for the president.”

“The confusing part,” deadpanned a reporter, “is why, if she and the family is top of mind, does the president think that she’s living and in the room?” Which was true but still a little unkind.

“I don’t find that confusing,” snapped Ms Jean-Pierre. “I mean, I think many people can speak to … Sometimes when you have someone top of mind, they are top of mind, exactly that.” Biden had, during the speech, eventually given up his search for Walorski, concluding with some pathos, “Where’s Jackie? She must not be here.”


An email comes in from the management office of my apartment building with the subject line “raccoon attack on West End Avenue”, recounting a standoff behind the complex between two individuals and a “large, angry raccoon”. It chased them up the street, apparently, before veering off to the west towards the river. Police and ambulance were called. The animal was assumed to be rabid and if seen again, residents are advised to call animal control or 911.

It is extremely thrilling, and also, of course, very worrying (but mainly, thrilling). There hasn’t been a human case of rabies in New York City for more than 50 years, although according to the city’s department of health, the tally of animals testing positive for rabies this year has been a surprisingly high 22. This includes seven raccoons from Queens, one cat, one raccoon, two bats from Staten Island, two skunks and five raccoons from Bronx, leading the health department to launch a wildlife vaccination drive and suggesting a dystopian Disney movie for anyone who can be bothered to write it. (De Niro and DeVito as the bats from Staten Island. Come on. Who wouldn’t watch that? That’s going to be bigger than the Lion King).


As part of its rabies-awareness campaign, the co-op sends out a list of symptoms to look out for including “staggering gait”, general “obliviousness” and “erratic wandering”. Which – thanks, I’ll be here all week – brings us to Liz Truss and her disastrous tour of regional BBC radio stations on Thursday, during which she seemed to be fulfilling a dare to see just how much dead airtime could be left before answering a question.

With Graham Liver on BBC Lancashire, a question about Tory consensus over fracking policy triggered two seconds of silence from the prime minister. With John Acres on BBC Stoke, when the host suggested soaring interest rates caused by the government’s mini-budget last week could cost homeowners more than their savings in fuel costs, three full seconds of dead air before Truss pulled the emergency Putin cord. The biggest bouquet, however, must go to Rima Ahmed on BBC Leeds, who with dangerous cheerfulness greeted the prime minister with “Morning! How are you? Have you slept well?” Followed, with the bland innocence of the professional killer, by the question: “Where’ve you been?” Silence from Truss, after which [checks symptoms list] yes, something that might indeed be characterised as “repeated high-pitched vocalisation.”


Emma Brockes

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
After a disastrous mini-budget can Liz Truss tackle the myriad crises looming ahead?
The PM’s in tray looks ever more challenging with warnings of winter blackouts, NHS winter crisis and nuclear threat from Russia

Rowena Mason Whitehall editor

08, Oct, 2022 @5:00 AM

Article image
Digested week: welcome to the parallel universe of Trussia | John Crace
Alternate realities seemed to be possible at the Tory conference. It was hard keeping up with the PM’s U-turns

John Crace

07, Oct, 2022 @10:26 AM

Article image
Mini-budget debacle likely to create tension between Truss and Kwarteng
The turmoil in financial markets has led to reports of friction between the prime minister and her closest political ally, the chancellor

Rowena Mason Whitehall editor

02, Oct, 2022 @5:26 PM

Article image
Digested week: where has all the ‘In Liz we Truss’ merch gone? | John Crace
Tories were flogging old conference mugs and T-shirts online this week, until reality gave the lie to the slogan

John Crace

21, Oct, 2022 @10:38 AM

Article image
Digested week: Dear, oh dear … I’m almost feeling sorry for Liz Truss | Emma Brockes
PM’s awkward exchange with King leaves me wondering how it would have played out without the forelock-tugging protocol

Emma Brockes

14, Oct, 2022 @11:34 AM

Article image
Digested week: Public's reaction to the Titan sub billionaires is shaming | Emma Brockes
Complaints that people care more about rich explorers than for immigrants lost at sea miss the mark

Emma Brockes

23, Jun, 2023 @11:34 AM

Article image
The mini-budget that broke Britain – and Liz Truss
From soaring mortgage costs to a sterling slump, the fiscal event set off a chain of chaos that led to PM’s downfall

Richard Partington Economics correspondent

20, Oct, 2022 @4:22 PM

Article image
Tory MPs threaten rebellion against Liz Truss over mini-budget
Party conference overshadowed by fears that refusing to do a U-turn on tax and spending cuts will kill off election chances

Pippa Crerar, Jessica Elgot, Peter Walker and Aubrey Allegretti

02, Oct, 2022 @7:36 PM

Article image
How Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget hit UK economy – in numbers
Reckless ‘fiscal event’ may have damaged Liz Truss’s government beyond repair

Jamie Grierson

30, Sep, 2022 @12:46 PM

Article image
NI to stamp duty: what is left of Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget?
After series of U-turns and Kwarteng’s sacking as chancellor, here is where things stand

Ben Quinn

17, Oct, 2022 @4:33 PM