At PMQs today, the Tories’s energy policy went bi-polar. The Conservatives now seem to touch both extremes of the debate. For eight years they’ve presented themselves as a gang of happy tree-huggers who applaud every green subsidy going. But today David Cameron announced his plan to ‘roll back some of the green regulations and charges’.
John Major started it all. Yesterday he lurched back into front-line politics by suggesting that energy companies should pay a windfall tax this winter. Otherwise, he said, the poor will have to choose between starving or freezing to death. Number 10 called this bombshell ‘interesting’.
Ed Miliband asked David Cameron if John Major was now a Marxist. ‘Has he been claimed by the red peril?’ smirked the Labour leader.
Cameron stood up, to indignant jeers, and said that he too favoured intervening in the energy market. He wanted consumers on the lowest tariff. He wanted more competition too. And more players in the market. And he called for a ‘frank conversation’ about levies and regulations.
‘He really is changing his policy every day of the week,’ said Miliband.
Cameron tried to blame the Labour government for slapping eco-levies on our bills. A likely tale. The Tories have been devout windmill-worshippers for years.
Miliband recalled Cameron’s advice last week when he told customers to change suppliers even when bills are going up in unison, like a the legs of a chorus line.
Still a good idea?
Yes, said Cameron. Switch and you can save £200 a year.
That made Cameron look silly. He looked even sillier when he repeated his plan to ‘get to grips with green regulations.’
Nick Clegg beside him was already suffering a power failure. His face was expressionless. His eyes were deadened sockets. His papery jowls were as grey as raw mackerel.
The last time a party performed a volte-face on this scale was in the late 1980s when Labour renounced its commitment to nuclear disarmament. At least that was planned. Robin Cook and Peter Mandelson flew to Moscow to make the announcement in Red Square. Cameron seems to have dreamed this one up as he strolled into the Commons with his hands in his pockets.
Miliband had it far too easy today. He gets over-animated when he senses victory. He hops and flaps at the dispatch box. He giggles with his toothy gnashers, and he fires smart-alec taunts at his opponent. He’s like a bright prefect catching out a dunce at spelling.
Cameron retaliated with insults. Labour’s price freeze was the policy of ‘a conman’, he said. The Speaker stuck his oar in. ‘Conman’, he opined, was an unparliamentary expression. But the most unparliamentary sight today was the Tory leader dismantling his own raison d’etre. He might as well have ripped his manifesto into bits and eaten it.
When he started cuddling huskies and adopting the Greenpeace agenda he was under no pressure to do so. Just the opposite. He forced his reluctant party to assume eco-camouflage on his behalf. And he’s now decided the country can’t afford to pay for his saintly pose. Answer: smash the pedestal to pieces. What a buffoon. Energy has topped the agenda for the last few days. Cameron has now ensured that it remains uppermost in everyone’s mind for the foreseeable future.
This spells the end for the Tories’ green oak tree logo. Perhaps the new version will show a coal-fired power station and that shapely plume of sprouting leaves will be redrawn as a cloud of belching poisons. Or, to save time, they could just replace the oak tree with a yew – for U-turn.Tags: David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Energy policy, energy price freeze, Green, Green taxes, Manifesto, PMQs