Friday, 18 October 2013

Pedantic Jumpers

Asked if the Prime Minister agrees that people can cut fuel bills by wrapping up warm, Mr Cameron's official spokesman said: 'He’s clearly not going to prescribe actions individuals should take but if people are giving that advice then that is something people may wish to consider.'

This statement has caused a gleeful flurry of action from Labour supporters to capitalise on this political faux-pas, and equally libertarian/conservative sympathisers to call people all kinds of names in retaliation for putting words in Cameron('s spokesman)'s mouth. Did Downing Street say stop complaining, just wrap up warm? No, of course not. Did it say that it's categorically not something they'd offer as advice to combat increasing fuel bills?

No.

Perhaps downing street thought they were being clever with this wet response to a challenging question. Once again they've only shown that they have the political nouse of your average Monster Raving Looney candidate.


The problem here is that the Prime Minister (indirectly) even addressed the question, let alone answered it in such a way they Downing street did, in fact, suggest that advice to those facing higher fuel bills (and by proxy to take control of their energy bills instead of complain about them) is to just wrap up warmer is reasonable.

The government is already in a flap over their energy policy, caught between a rock and a hard place with Ed's plan (which will, by all effects be completely ineffectual on actual consumer prices since it will likely look no different than a requirement to put all customers on a fixed tariff that they would already have offered to a number of customers anyway), the coalition have no narrative to spin.

That doesn't mean they're not talking, trying to blame all of these ongoing price rises year on year on the Labour leader while he was Energy Minister, but somehow I believe the public are already quite aware of who currently is driving the vehicle and who has the opportunity to stop it. If the Tories *really* wanted energy prices to drop, they've had 3 years and more to make that happen.

Ed's announcement is much a highlight of how little the government has intervened on the behalf of the people they claim to be looking out for as much as anything, and stupidly they're falling in to the trap of highlighting that even more by showing that they have chosen to so far keep a policy that a) happened under the evil Labour administration and b) is seemingly by implication something they don't even agree with?!

Others are digging deeper and further, despite highlighting "Labour hypocrisy" doing nothing to alleviate the current government of responsibility over their inaction (actually quite the opposite, see above points a and b once again). Some have pulled out this while sailing whistfully past the point, others equally miss the mark by talking about Greenpeace telling people to wrap up warm.

There was hardly any subtext in the astute (and mischievous) question asked of Downing Street, the question was essentially "Do you agree when people say that they should just man up and wear a jumper, instead of complaining about energy price rises". The politically correct answer was to either say "no" or to caveat your response with "for your own personal health it makes a lot of sense". The Labour leaflet linked above doesn't once mention wrapping up in more clothing as a way to tackle bills, and in fact highlights instead the ways that people can get financial and physical support if they are having trouble keeping the heat on.

Greenpeace, of course, are just an ideological lot that want us to use less energy regardless of how affordable it is, unless (I guess) it's renewable!

But Cameron and his team didn't do this, the answer wasn't "To be clear, our very first advice to people struggling with energy bills is to contact helpline X, and to apply for grant Y", it was just a weaselly "Well, I didn't say this on the record, but sure". It was a stupid response to make.

Cameron and his lot deserve all the ridicule they're getting over "Jumpergate" (ugh), not because they actually explicitly said it, but because they showed pretty clearly that the priority in their mind is not really about making sure people know how the government or support agencies/charities can help, it's not about making sure the energy companies level off their profits during these days of benefit cuts and wage stagnation.

Quite frankly their lack of input on this subject says nothing, regardless of what they actually believe, other than they are ticking boxes, dotting the I's and crossing the T's when it comes to fulfilling their ethical duty to the poor and hard up when it comes to energy prices. If they had a clue about how much this issue affects people, and how to deal with it, they'd be prepared by now to come out fighting on this (what appears to be becoming) top policy issue of the next election.

But they're not. Because they don't care. At least that is the only thing that you can take away from what they're (not) saying and doing right now.

PS Edit...

To be clear, it is entirely false to suggest the Prime Minister would advise people they should wear jumpers to stay warm

This is how the Prime Minister's office chooses to respond to this storm in a teacup...but saying something that, by contrast, is also bloody stupid. They don't have a clue.