Aside from the Afriyie affray, there is an interesting snippet from James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday on the eventual Tory response to Miliband’s energy policy:
“In George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, [the Conservative leadership] wants to remove some of the seven green taxes and levies that are pushing up energy bills. Not only would this reduce the appeal of Miliband’s price freeze, but it would put the Labour leader in a difficult position. As Energy Secretary, he imposed some of these charges.”
This would be a big step in the right direction. Not only would ditching expensive green taxes help to reduce the burden on consumers, but it would do so in a distinctly Conservative way, rather than trying to ape Labour’s top-down approach. Free market ideas work better, and Labour will always outdo us in the socialism stakes, so deregulation and tax cuts are the way to go.
“…not only are they ineffective and a burden on consumers, but Ed Miliband is the Ronald to their McDonald’s. No-one could better personify costly green initiatives unless they painted themselves green and went pickpocketing, an approach which would be electorally inadvisable. By the same token, we can’t even point to the large amount added to consumer bills by the policies he implemented as Energy Secretary until we stop loyally following the very same path he set out in Government.”
The same article called on Osborne to respond by “putting a wrecking ball through the complex web of taxes, subsidies and levies which [Miliband] imposed on consumers”. It seems someone in the Treasury may be a ConHome reader.
If Forsyth’s source is correct, we will soon be armed with a viable alternative policy to defend from Miliband’s attacks, and we will be in a position to properly hold him to account for the expensive policies he introduced when in Government.
Of course, we should have opposed his barrage of green taxes from the outset. This new approach represents a second major reversal of a strategic error made in Opposition.
The first mistake, only rectified long after the financial crisis began, was the pledge to match Labour’s spending plans. Had the Conservative Party stuck to its principles from the start and argued that massive deficit finance was unsustainable and dangerous, it would have been proved right when the markets crashed. Instead, people got a bit too into their war games and decided spending restraint was dogmatic and passé, unsuited to the modern age. As a result, Osborne was forced to perform an about-turn in Autumn 2008 once reality had trampled on Brown’s fantasy finances.
Now we see the same, belated awakening on energy policy. It should have been clear all along that Labour were wrong to levy large taxes on households and manufacturers in order to fund unpopular and ineffective green pipe-dreams. We should have hammered them for it, pointing out again and again that they were raising the cost of living during an economic downturn. Plenty of people in Parliament and in the think tanks urged such an approach. Instead, the Conservative Party supported green taxes as part of its modernisation programme. It now turns out that some principles, like the idea that pensioners should not be taxed so heavily that they freeze in their beds, don’t bend or break with the passage of time.
If George Osborne intends to cut or even abolish some or all of these green taxes it will be welcome news for everyone who struggles to pay their energy bills. It will also be welcome news for Conservatives like this site who have been calling for a robust, free market response to Miliband’s misguided but eye-catching conference speech.
But it should also be a lesson learned – next time the Party leadership considers adopting flawed left-wing ideas on tax or spending in an attempt to rebrand, they might do well to pause and think again. It’s far better to be right from the start than be forced to adopt the correct position at a later date.