Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together? The implication that green levies brought in by the last Labour government are to blame for rising energy prices, subtly implanted in the backs of our minds a month ago, finally came into the open today when David Cameron joined up the dots. Dismissing Miliband as a “con man” for promising to freeze energy prices, Cameron sounded like he could have been reading from a script written by Energy UK:
“We need to recognise there are four bits to an energy bill. There are the wholesale prices, which are beyond our control. There are the costs of transmission and the grid, which are difficult to change. There are the profits of the energy companies and there are the green regulations. It is those last two that we need to get to grips with.
I can tell the House today that we will be having a proper competition test carried out over the next year to get to the bottom of whether this market can be more competitive.
But yes, we also need to roll back the green charges that he put in place as energy secretary.
We have to have an honest discussion about this. On our energy bills is £112 of green taxes and green regulations.”(David Cameron pledges to reverse ‘green charges’ on energy bills, Nicholas Watt and Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, Wed 23 Oct 2013)
There’s those words again: Honest. Proper. Where have we heard them before? What did Big Nurse, Energy UK chief executive Angela Knight, say on Channel 4 News the day she launched the Energy UK campaign?
“… that proper, clear, open and honest discussion”
And what did she say on the BBC Daily Politics the day after:?
“Why can’t we discuss it properly?”
By themselves those things don’t matter, but the way they add up does. Words are memes, and memes are infectious. The infections people pick up says a lot about the company they keep. And why does this proper test need to be carried out over the next year? How many more millions is that going to cost ? Why not just show the National Audit Office or Ofgem the numbers the Big Six have used to justify their price raids and ask them if they add up? Better still, just show them to the average Year 10 maths class and we’ll have the answer by lunchtime.
But that’s not likely to happen is it? Long gone are the days you could do these things on the back of an envelope or in your head. Now you have to go through the proper channels. An Audit Office or Ofgem inquiry would take as long as any other inquiry and cost just as much. And school maths classes can’t just do whatever sums they fancy just because they feel like it. There’s a risk they might enjoy it, and we can’t have that can we? They have to keep their noses to the core curriculum or Ofsted will be down on their necks.
So you’ve got to admit Energy UK‘s strategy has paid off beautifully. All it took was a warning six weeks ago from Big Nurse Angela that if we don’t take our medicine we deserve everything we get. Reinforced a couple of weeks later with nightmares of the torture that could lie ahead, suffering the cold and darkness of winter blackouts unable to watch television or charge our iPhones, courtesy of the National Grid. Rammed home just three days later with the first raid by bill collectors from SSE, followed by British Gas and Npower at increasingly shorter intervals wielding increasingly bigger sticks.
And even though none of their claims stand up to scrutiny and none of their numbers add up, the mainstream media, the consumer watchdogs, the energy analysts or even the average secondary school maths class haven’t bothered to check them out. With half of the the campaign still left to run, the public has lost interests, the government has capitulated and The Big Six have won their campaign!
It could have been so different. Just suppose for a moment that, instead of blaming Labour and giving The Big Six what they wanted, David Cameron had said something like this:
The statements the Big Six Energy companies have made to justify their prices rises simply don’t add up. First they claimed wholesale prices had risen, which they haven’t. Now they’re trying to pin it on green taxes. Yesterday Scottish Power was fined £8.5 million for fraud and deception. Three of the other Big Six have already been fined for similar offences and investigations against the two remaining members are still ongoing. They have ‘form’ as our Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, told the House last week. Yet none of their top executives have been sacked, suggesting there has been no change in their culture and they could well be up to the same tricks again.
Honourable Members of this House would do well to remember that one in five households in this country can no longer afford to heat their homes. Amongst our European neighbours, only Estonia has more people living in fuel poverty. This year between eight and twenty thousand of the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us will become seriously ill and die from the cold. That’s a threat to the security of our people many hundreds of times greater than the 7/7 attacks.
As leader of Her Majesty’s Government, my first duty is to protect the security of the people of this country. I am therefore today declaring a war that will last for generations on the market fundamentalists who hold their profits more dear than human life.
I can assure the House that we will not be rolling back the green taxes, we will be doubling them and passing legislation to take them directly out of the Big Six profits. And if they don’t like it we’ll take the energy business out of their greedy grasp entirely and put it back in the hands of the people of this country, where it ought to have remained in the first place.
But that could never happen, obviously. For one thing, we no longer have public servants only public officials, whose job is to manage us, not to help us manage ourselves. For another we, the great British public, are every bit as fanatical in our economic fundamentalism as those we have elected to lead us. We devote most of our lives to making money, worship the rich and powerful and believe the poor and vulnerable only have themselves to blame. Even if none of the above were true, the global corporations who now control almost every aspect of our lives could not afford to tolerate any disobedience to their fundamentalist creed. They wouldn’t need to send in troops from the United Nations. All they’d need is to crash the economy like they did in 2008 and the power will go off, the supermarket shelves will empty and we’ll all be starving to death by the end of the week.
So The Big Six won’t have to pay the green tariffs, the taxpayer will have to bail them out just like we did the banks. Many thousands more of us will die miserably in the cold and darkness this winter and the pharmaceutical industry lobbyists will have the media convince us it’s because they didn’t take their flu shots. And the results of any investigation into the Big Six‘s antics won’t be known for another year, when so many other lobbying campaigns and con tricks have been rolled over us we’ll have forgotten what it was all about.
Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together, unless you’re on the receiving end that is!