Ed’s no red on fuel poverty

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By Colin Fox

Ed Milliband’s announcement this week that a future Labour Government would cap energy bills for 20 months has sent the right wing press into a shiver as they flaunt the notion he is a ‘socialist’.

But the rest of us are well aware he is simply doing what Labour does most, vent the anger of ordinary people without offering any meaningful solution to their problems, in this case soaring energy bills and falling livings standards.

Polls now report that people worry more about paying their energy bills more than any other concern.  They fear they will not be able to find the money to pay the outrageous sums now demanded.

And with good reason do they worry.  Fuel poverty in Britain has soared in recent years because of a combination of factors.  Rocketing gas and electricity bills are certainly a factor but so is the Con-Dem Governments 60% cut in the winter fuel allowance paid to pensioners. 

‘Red Ed’ Miliband has noticeably not said he would restore that benefit.  Indeed he is at pains to make clear he supports 90% of the ConDem cuts.

And he would insist on even more cuts he tells us if he ever took power.  This is the same ‘Red Ed’ [sic] who took 6 months to promise to scrap the hated bedroom tax.  The Scottish Socialist Party by contrast were able to give that promise from day one.

And not withstanding the predictable and faux ‘shock, horror’ reaction from the big six energy companies, the truth is Miliband’s promise to cap these bills in three years time little and too late for the one in three families already living in fuel poverty.  And it offers very little comfort indeed to rural Scots pensioner households for example [who are not even on the national gas grid] as 80% of them are already unable to afford to keep warm.

Energy bills have doubled in the past 5 years as incomes have fallen and this huge problem will take far more than Ed Milliband’s future cap to solve.  Scottish Socialist Party activists across Scotland have been campaigning on this issue for some time around 6 key demands;

  • cap gas and electricity bills immediately
  • prosecute those energy companies suspected of price fixing
  • double the winter fuel allowance for pensioners and extend it to all those on benefits and students
  • invest in renewable energy to diversify away from costly polluting hydrocarbons
  • build 100,000 energy efficient new social housing units to replace the least energy efficient old homes
  • return the energy industry to public ownership to ensure the profits generated benefit everyone not just rich shareholders.

This final demand is, of course, the one which Ed Miliband really ought to be championing, but shys away from completely.  Like his Labour predecessors Brown and Blair, Miliband is utterly wedded to corporate neo-liberalism that means he advocates privatisation not public ownership and fuel poverty instead of adequate gas and electricity supplies for every human being.

Ed’s no Red.  But the SSP is.

Colin Fox is joint national spokesman for the SSP