It is certainly popular with the Ipswich Labour Party, who were busy promoting it on Twitter yesterday. And it should be popular in the country, despite the best attempts of the big energy companies to ridicule it.
The principle of the policy is that a future Labour Government will tell legislate so energy companies can’t raise their prices for 2 years – until 2017. This should save the average 2 person household in Ipswich £61 a year. That is money that, all things being equal, they are likely to then spend in the local economy, boosting investment and jobs.
The policy was warmly welcomed by Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich, David Ellesmere. Voters will be told “Labour has to make the economy work for working people. Under this government you’ve paid too much. A Labour Government will freeze your bills and put a stop to this.”
Even the Tories are struggling to attack it. They don’t want to be seen as siding with the big energy companies, so they can’t really use the attack line that when this was tried in California it led to widespread blackouts. They don’t really want to remind people of what Ed Miliband said back in 2009 either, that he (as Energy Secretary) wanted to see energy companies making a profit because he wanted to see the £100 billion in investment they promised from it.
The Tories are unlikely to take Gavin Maclure’s advice and remind people that our energy bills are huge because of a piece of legislation Labour passed when Ed Miliband was Energy Secretary which led to massive subsidies for on shore wind farms like the one Ipswich Borough Council are actively supporting in South West Ipswich, because the Prime Minister is in favour of huge subsidies to wind turbines, rather than to new nuclear build which has the benefit of running when the wind isn’t blowing.
They may fall back on the BBC attack line from yesterday morning; that the Government would have to stand ready to bail out the “too big to fail” energy providers if there was a huge shock in the wholesale energy price – for instance if a nuclear armed Iran dropped a bomb on Riyadh.
So Ed has found a policy that will be popular on the doorstep and that the Tories can’t attack without seeming as though they are standing up for big business. The fact that UK energy prices are about average for Europe will go ignored. The fact that nuclear powered France has much cheaper energy than we do, whilst almost carbon neutral Denmark has the most expensive energy in Europe will also go ignored. The truth is that this Shadow Cabinet of Millionaires doesn’t really care about you, the energy consumer. Instead they are after some cheap populism that can’t be pulled apart in ten minutes by a blogger with a calculator. The trouble with cheap populism is that in the long term it is rarely cheap, and therefore rarely that popular.