Energy companies back price freeze but Johnson is on his jollies

Commentary Downing Street Opinion

Caretaker prime minister Boris Johnson is continuing his (second) holiday (in two weeks) with the country relieved to learn from Downing Street that he will be kept informed of any “urgent issues” while he enjoys his jollies.

This week Johnson in Greece (a week after returning from his eco-hotel honeymoon in Slovenia) and No 10 confirmed he’ll not be doing any day-to-day work whilst he is away. Some solace for the country is news that deputy PM Dominic Raab is on stand-by to deputise in any meetings about any urgent issues… “should they come up,” Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters, continuing, “but as far as I’m aware there are no such meetings currently scheduled.”

Of course there aren’t. Why would a “zombie government” hold any meetings about “urgent” things given the current state of the UK after 12 years of Tory rule?

Apparently, there’s nothing “urgent” about an economy set for recession, already rampant inflation that is set to soar even higher, or indeed flashing lights outside hospitals as apt for the NHS as for the patients waiting inside backed-up ambulances.

Around the country people are pulling their own teeth with pliers because they can’t get a dentist while the judicial system is log-jammed and threats of strikes permeate almost every industry not already striking or balloting to do so.

And that’s without considering Brexit and trying to square the circle that is the Northern Ireland protocol. Or the consequences of drought emptying reservoirs, threatening not just domestic and industrial supplies but also farmers’ harvests, production and their very futures.

And never mind the energy crisis causing real fear and despair with bills forecast to top £5,000 by spring while the government and industry “wargame” scenarios to stave off blackouts this winter caused by dwindling supplies. That’s not urgent so there’s no need, apparently, to have a meeting to sort that because Johnson met with energy company bosses last week and, well, Greece was calling so the result was a stating of the bleeding obvious: that his successor will have to do more in terms of government help.

The most galling aspect of that statement was revealed by a Sunday Times’ report that a host of energy companies actually proposed measures to freeze their customers bills at the current rate for the next two years.

Johnson has never liked the details

British Gas owner Centrica, Octopus Energy, Scottish Power and Eon presented plans at their meeting with Johnson for a “tarrif deficit fund”, backed by banks that would keep bills at £1,971 until 2024, with monies paid back over 10-15 years via taxes or a far more manageable surcharge on bills. It would thereby avoid Octobers energy price cap hike to more than £3,600 for the average UK household which is set to be followed by January’s rise to over £4,200.

Johnson has apparently never liked the details so it’s possible, though probably more likely, that he didn’t even take on board what the energy companies themselves were proposing. Because, had he done so, he could have left the meeting and made a statement that would have given some real hope to a nation in despair at what autumn, never mind winter will bring.

Instead, the details the prime minister of the United Kingdom was more concerned about was arranging for removal vans to start emptying the controversially, lavishly and eyewatering-expensively furnished flat occupied by the Johnsons, before the new PM moves in on September 6 – and his jollies to Greece.

Those removal vans were in Downing Street on Monday and when Johnson’s official spokesman was asked why the caretaker-PM could not have waited three weeks to go on his holiday, he demurred: “I don’t have anything for you on that. I can’t get into the decision around timings, but he is on leave this week. He will be back this weekend.”

And probably straight off to Chequers for another knees-up.

The same spokesman did confirm that Johnson actually stumped up for this holiday himself, although he wasn’t as forthcoming about who is footing the bill for the PM’s security which was visibly absent at the Greek supermarket the PM was pictured in.

And even though the cat’s away – big dog was buried by the avalanche of ministerial resignations – the mice still play the same game of misinformation that’s been such a hallmark of Johnson’s tenure. The week started with Brandon Lewis, the former Northern Ireland secretary defending the PM’s Greek sojourn by telling LBC listeners that Johnson is “still going through his red box”.  However, the PM’s spokesman said Johnson won’t be receiving any government briefings while he’s away.

Of course he won’t. Besides, what’s the point? He doesn’t care enough to read them anyway.

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