Many in the wider centre right movement have long warned against the unfairness, economic damage and political risk of green taxes. Those warnings have, sadly, turned out to be correct – worse still, they have not been heeded by those setting energy policy.
But now the fruits of Ed Miliband’s decision to drive up energy bills, a move which the Conservative Party wrongly supported in Opposition, are now evident – excessive prices have become a major political issue. Cheek does not do justice to the Labour leader’s hypocrisy in posing as the man who can save us all from a problem he created, but he has done so nonetheless.
ConservativeHome was among the first to propose that cutting green taxes should form part of a conservative response to Miliband’s proposals, helping to solve the problem and hammering Labour for their mistakes in Government at the same time. Many have since followed our thinking.
Last week it was reported that George Osborne was planning to pursue just such an approach in the Autumn Statement – a belated abandonment of the party’s pre-crash greenery, but welcome nonetheless.
But as soon as the Conservative part of the Government came up with such a sensible idea, the Lib Dems set out to block it. James Forsyth reported yesterday that the yellow half of the Quad was refusing to budge on the issue, and Ed Davey has now come out publicly to defend the web of levies imposed by his Department.
At worst, the disagreement means that cuts to green taxes will have to wait for the 2015 manifesto, leaving consumers paying over the odds for another 18 months. At best, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor might be able to force their policy through Lib Dem opposition to become Government policy before the election. Customers would prefer the latter – hot air in Westminster won’t warm their homes.
There is nothing to lose in having an open falling out about this. Ministers have rightly been careful to avoid public disagreement on many matters, but on this one there are large numbers of votes to be won, and a large part of everyone’s household finances at stake. Miliband’s eye-catching but mistaken proposal demands a response, and if the Lib Dems want to try to explain to the nation why they, too, support Labour’s costly green taxes then we should merrily invite them to bring it on.
Either the polling pain will persuade Clegg to allow the Conservatives to cut green taxes, or he will join Ed Miliband on the losing side of one of the major issues of the day.