You couldn’t make it up
You really, truly, couldn’t make it up.
With more than nine million people in severe debt difficulties, the Red Cross sending food parcels to Britain for the first time since 1945, and the choice between eating and heating confronting millions of the poorest households as winter looms and the cost of essentials soars, the Westminster Punch-and-Judy show is now doing its best to imperil the country’s energy security.
First, Ed Miliband promised to force energy suppliers to freeze bills after the next election in 2015. Now, David Cameron may have asked the same companies to freeze them until the election as well.
Of course, Cameron’s initiative doesn’t stop there. If only it had. He now plans to scale back the valuable home insulation programme (putting perhaps 13,000 jobs at risk), and dip into the taxpayer’s pocket as well, in order to take £50 off annual fuel bills.
This, Cameron clearly thinks, will boost his electoral chances. If only percentages were taught at Eton…………. As electoral bribes go, £50 really doesn’t cut it, when set against dual-fuel bills of £1,500 – which are likely to go on rising anyway.
* * * * * * *
Whilst all this vote-grubbing nonsense is going on, no-one is giving a thought to how to keep the lights on. Just as Nero fiddled whilst Rome burned, our so-called leaders are playing politics whilst Britain heads for the deep-freeze.
Indigenous energy production has slumped by 53% over ten years. Of the production capacity that remains, a further 33% is likely to disappear by 2020, by which time output will meet only 37% of our current consumption.
The bottom line is that we need huge investment in energy if we’re to keep the lights on. It should be obvious – obvious, that is, to anyone whose IQ exceeds his shoe-size – that companies are not going to deliver this investment if pricing is turned into a political shuttlecock.
Are the Chinese, the French – or anyone else, for that matter – really going to be daft enough to invest in building capacity in a country that threatens them with price-freezes?
Instead of a strategy – one that invests in replacement nuclear capacity, promotes waste-to-heat conversion and expands gas storage – we get waffle, political posturing over energy prices, and far-fetched hyperbole about shale from ministers who seem to be completely clueless about energy issues.
* * * * * * *
First we had Teflon Tony. Then we had Gormless Gordon. Now we have Calamity Clegg and Devious Dave. Where on earth do we get these “leaders” from?
The answer, I’m afraid, lies in the degradation of the political system. Not that long ago we had mass-membership parties, high turnouts in general elections, active local participation in politics, local democracy, and a string of checks to executive power including robust constituency parties, independently-minded MPs, influential cabinet ministers and an impartial Civil Service.
Over two decades or so, all of the mechanisms so painstakingly constructed to give us capable and accountable leadership have been sacrificed on the altar of executive power concentrated in 10 Downing Street.
Local parties have been subjected to control from the centre, and are often deprived even of the right to choose their own Parliamentary candidates. Local authorities have been turned into service providers financed and controlled from the centre. Mass membership parties are a thing of the past, because joining a party has become pointless. Cabinet posts are given to nonentities who are largely excluded from decision-making anyway. Civil Service counsel and restraint has been degraded by the insertion of an army of ‘political advisers’ and spin-doctors between civil servants and their political masters.
The result is that the country is governed by a narrow, self-perpetuating clique of professional politicians, with virtually no real-world experience, who gather around the Downing Street sofa much as the place-seekers and manipulators of an earlier age gathered around the throne.
The only objective, it seems, is to cling on to power within the Westminster bubble.
Never mind if efforts to create a feel-good effect ahead of the 2015 election create a housing price spike and burden the public with yet more debt.
Never mind if political posturing deters investors from replacing our deteriorating energy infrastructure.
Never mind, even, if the lights go off – just so long as it doesn’t happen before the next election.
A former Home Secretary once said that his department was “not fit for purpose”.
Neither, frankly, is our debased system of government.