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Now we can keep our lights on!

light bulbEd Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy process for twenty months, should Labour win the General Election, will be immensely popular with hard pressed consumers. His commitment, backed up by some effective and feisty performances from Labour’s Energy Spokesperson, Caroline Flint, has interestingly not been seriously countered by David Cameron or anyone from the Government’s front benches. This is most likely because Ministers know that this is a popular message, and that when Ed Miliband says that he is ‘on the side of the British people’, they, the public, know it. Even a former Conservative energy adviser, Tom Burke, has leapt into print in The Spectator to say that Labour’s plans to fix the ‘broken energy market deserve cross party support’.

Ed Miliband’s commitment will be welcomed by consumer groups and local authorities up and the country. Some local authorities, such as Tower Hamlets in London, have set up energy co-ops, as a way of reducing bills for local people, harnessing the power of the consumer to get the best deals from the corporate energy giants. Taking the energy giants on and reducing their power could even result in new mutually based energy companies emerging. And Miliband’s commitment begins to make even more sense when it is pointed out the French energy giant EDF sells electricity more cheaply to people in France than in Britain, because of French state intervention on pricing.

But that commitment has brought a sometimes ferocious response from the big energy companies, who have very publically claimed that if the price freeze goes ahead there could ‘be blackouts’. They claim that the plans will cause ‘instability’, and that they will be unable to invest in new plant.

Labour’s leader has responded by saying that there will be plenty of stability should the party be elected, and warned that the energy companies would inevitably cry foul. Consumers know that their energy prices keep on leaping upwards and are set to do so yet again in the next few months. Those same companies have in recent years recorded record profits, and rewarded their senior managers in the now familiar grotesque and offensive manner pioneered by irresponsible bankers. If there is any risk of the lights going off, it is because the same companies have not been investing enough in new power generating plants, while all the while harrying the taxpayer for massive subsidies to help them build a new generation of nuclear power plants.

At the same time, successive governments have missed the opportunity of modernising existing coal fired power stations by investing in clean coal technology. So once again if there is any risk that the lights may yet go off, it is because ageing coal fired plant is phased out more quickly than the new plant can be built. When a clown such as Digby Jones is given prime-time air time to sound off about ‘tribal socialism’ being brought back, perhaps he could explain how exactly the current free market in energy actually works? He might be asked what is vaguely free market about potentially massive state subsidies for nuclear power station build, or what he thinks about this Governments recent, and sensible, decision to effectively take the remnant of Britain’s coal mining industry under public ownership, or risk its complete collapse. That possible collapse would have led to a 100% dependence on foreign imports.

What we are witnessing from the energy companies is a pretty straightforward attempt to blackmail a future Labour Government from carrying out its mandate. When those same companies speak as one, we are reminded that private monopoly is potentially able to hold the country to ransom. This is a situation that would never have been able to pertain when the Central Electricity Generating Board made its decisions with the interests of the consumer in mind first.

The energy giants have also been aided and abetted by Lord Peter Mandelson, who has been quoted as saying that the plans to control prices ‘takes Labour backwards’. His quote was re-produced in The Guardian by Patrick Wintour, but without the health check that followed the same quotes that were carried by the BBC. The latter reported that Mandelson’s lobbying company, Global Counsel claims ‘energy market expertise’. The same company has been obliged to admit that it does work for energy interests overseas, gamely ignoring the fact that most of the energy giants active in the British market are multi-nationals.

Lord Mandelson’s intervention is a disgrace. In the past he would have been the first to anyone who had transgressed the Labour loyalty test, yet he apparently now feels unbound by any such thing. His peerage, his position in public – and business – owes everything to the Labour Party. It is about time he was reminded of all of this before he scampers off to another BBC studio or whispers into the ears of his tame hacks.

2 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    OK 20 months and then what, unless labour coems up with a real idea of what will happen after those 20 month all that will happen is the companies will add to the next rise. I have just had a letter explaining why it’s got to go up 8% this year, got help us if they think labour going to win in 2015 next year rise will be doubt and once the 20 months is over.

    People do not want gimmicks they want to have a fair gas and power prices, we have not had with New labour of which Miliband was part, so what was Miliband thought, the council tax was good the BBC TV license was cleaver tell you what we will have it with power.

    20 months and then we are back to the same thing it’s not what people want and they know a gimmick when they see it.

  2. swatantra says:

    This is what I mean when I say that we put the wrong kind of people in the Lords, like Digby; we elevate them and then they turn round and stab us in the back. Surely we should be able to de-elevate Peers when they’ve done their job or when they get sent to Prison? EdM has to make sure that Constitutional Reform is another Pledge: Lords Reform, PR/AV and the Aboilition of the Monarchy.
    The Energy Companies make huge profits because they’ve got monopolies; re-nationalise the lot.

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