If this conference season is remembered for anything, it will be for Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy prices. This pledge might be economically flawed but it has given the Labour leader a retail offer to voters and rebutted the charge that he doesn’t have any policies.
Initially, the Tories were uncertain of how to respond. But, as I write in the Mail on Sunday, the Tory leadership has now decided what it wants to do. In George Osborne’s autumn statement, they want to remove some of the seven green taxes and levies that are driving up energy bills. Not only would this reduce the salience of Miliband’s pledge but it would also put him in a difficult position. As Energy Secretary he imposed several of these.
Standing between Osborne and this act of political jiu-jitsu are the Liberal Democrats and, in particular, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey. Davey regards it as his role to protect the ‘green agenda’ in government, he’s already repeatedly clashed with Osborne over the Chancellor’s sceptical view of green subsidies.
The view inside the coalition is that this argument is going to have to go all the way to the Quad. The expectation is that Osborne will get his way but at the cost of concessions to the Liberal Democrats elsewhere. But given the importance of energy prices in this cost of living battle, I suspect that Osborne will be prepared to pay the coalition price to get his way on this issue.