Saturday, 20 July 2013

Sir Humphrey and the Energy Swindle

Those awfully nice Taxpayers’ Alliance people make it so easy nowadays to let your Member of Parliament know what you feel about crucially important political issues. Forget the Parker fountain pen and the green ink, the Olivetti typewriter and the carbon paper, the Word document and the laserjet printer. Just call up the TPA’s online template, complete your details, enter your postcode to locate your honourable member, hit Send, and your view has been expressed. All you need is a burning issue.

And what issue more burning than the Energy Swindle, when consumers’ bills are hitting the roof, security of supply is on a knife edge, and billions of pounds are being squandered on expensive and unreliable renewables, all because the political class is devoted to decarbonising, emissions targets, and fighting climate change?
There’s just one problem. Easy as it may now be to express a view, it is just as simple to bat one away via a standard form response combining platitudes, spin and downright lack of candour in a hideous amalgam of civilservicese. A few extracts from the one I have just received: -

Para 2: “I understand your concern about this issue which is why I welcomed the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to help get energy bills down. Helping households with the cost of living and their energy bills is a priority of this Government.” [Fancy that. I’d never have guessed.]
Para 3: “However, it is important to note that recent increases in energy bills have mainly been as a result of rising international prices for fossil fuels and not climate change policies…” [What about the dramatic fall in USA gas prices thanks to shale?] “…The calculations used in the ‘Stop the Energy Swindle’ campaign are incorrect and the Secretary of State, Ed Davey, has written to the Taxpayers’ Alliance setting this out.” [The TPA disagrees – link here.]

Para 5: “Policies which help decarbonise the UK’s energy supplies will reduce the vulnerability of UK energy prices to movements in fossil fuel prices. Were the UK not to act, the country’s energy supplies would become much more dependent on imports, more vulnerable to volatility in global fossil fuel prices, and there would be a far higher chance of disruptive blackouts.” [So how do you explain the plans to import French electricity through the Channel Tunnel? The need to back up wind turbines with conventional fossil fuel stations when the wind does not blow? The recently disclosed plans for the fleet of backup diesel generators – why decarbonise in the first place?]
Para 6: “The carbon price floor brings certainty and support for low-carbon investment…” [I’ve had enough. Whenever you see a politician using the I-word, just remember the proverbial “I invest. You subsidise. He squanders” and run for a mile.]

You may think it would be vicious, vindictive and cruel to name the MP who obtained this missive from Sir Humphrey’s word processor and top & tailed it in the name of constituency duty, even though there's a fair bet that this won't be the only instance. I agree entirely. So I will refer to the honourable member as G…. No, on second thoughts, I’ll just end up with a gratuitous reference to my political/legal suspense Sackcloth Ashes & Penance, set against the background of the UK 2010 General Election, and ask out loud whether the PM’s once stated determination to see ordinary people break the grip of the political class on Westminster has been borne out in practice, when we see an attitude like this to an issue as important as the astronomical cost of energy and the reasons for it.

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