So, two months and one week after Ed Miliband’s energy freeze speech, we have a response from the Government. Sort of.
That cutting green taxes ought to be the Conservative answer to the problem of high energy prices has long been clear. Indeed, it’s so obvious that before David Cameron pledged his support for such taxation in Opposition, critics on his own benches and in the centre right thinktanks warned that doing so would cause an energy price crisis.
They have been proved horribly right by the events of recent years, and it’s welcome news that the Prime Minister has at least partially come round to their way of thinking. The question “What will happen if we add to people’s energy bills?” didn’t really need asking, but after a damaging experiment at least no-one can deny the answer any longer.
A £50 reduction in energy bills is a good, if belated, response to Miliband’s proposal. He’s offering a fantasy freeze two years down the line, the Chancellor can say, but we’re reducing bills now.
It’s only a pity that the Lib Dems are hobbling the process. Instead of cutting wasteful green costs outright, the Autumn Statement will move them into general taxation – so you’ll still pay for subsidies for wind farms and so on, you just won’t see it as an identifiable addition to your energy bill. In effect, the green tax continues but it’s now going to be hidden from us.
While Cameron and Clegg have co-authored a piece in today’s Sun on Sunday explaining how they both agree that this is the right thing to do, in reality it’s the outcome of some serious disputes and the type of unsatisfying compromise which is a typical outcome of coalition. Where Tories want red meat, Nick Clegg has made them settle for Quorn.
That’s the unpleasant reality of governing with the Lib Dems – we may have to swallow it as the price of Labour not being in power, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.
James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday quotes a Minister complaining about the way our Coalition partners brief against Conservatives:
“Why is it acceptable for them to spend so much time trying to portray us as nasty and unpleasant?”
It’s a good question. If Clegg won’t rein in his party’s behaviour, and if Cameron can’t force him to, then the response ought to be a taste of their own medicine.
Take the green tax issue, for example. Clegg put his foot down against further, or stronger, action to reduce the impact of “green crap” on hard-pressed consumers. We should let that be known – we’re doing our best, but these greeny, wishy-washy Lib Dems won’t let us do all we can to help you.
As I wrote back in October, there’s nothing to lose from having a public falling out on this issue,