John Major Energy-Bills initiative: Headache or Opportunity for Osborne?

A bold suggestion by former Tory Leader Sir John Major can either be a headache or an opportunity for Chancellor George Osborne.  The challenge of popular policy thrown by former conservative Prime Minister  to Chancellor  Osborne  could turn into his advantage by subtle pressure on energy companies which could increase David Cameron’s government popularity.

The former Tory leader (1990-1997) suggested a one-off windfall tax on Energy companies if needed to fund a gap in the budget if the Treasury had to step in to help people in need with winter fuel bills if the weather turned cold and many people had to chose between eating or keeping warm.  Sir John was speaking to Westminster journalists as guest speaker in the monthly press gallery lunch when asked what would be his advice to Cameron government and the Tories to answer the Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s populist pledge to freeze energy bills.

Dismissing the populist “non-deliverable” promise by the Labour leader (whom he confused with his brother David and was corrected by several journalists) Sir John said if the winter turned bitterly cold, there were people who would be in desperate need and the government must step in to help.  “if Energy companies justified the increase by investing in new supplies or in energy project, with the aim of helping the people, then one way of helping needy consumer was to reduce bills. If the energy firms  themselves did not volunteer to reduce bills for those in need and the treasury had to do it, then one way to fill the gap in the budget would be one off levy on their profits this winter. He qualified his suggestion answering a second question from the reporters.

Now this would be a food for thought for Chancellor Osborne.” John Major has just made George Osborne cancel all his afternoon meetings. Kicked over a hornets’ nest re emergency energy profits” tweeted the Sun Political Editor Tom Newton Dunn.

“Osborn should quickly suggest it to Energy Companies” whispered my lunch guest, Former Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans (Conservative Ribble Valley)… Given the unpopularity of Energy Companies ( almost replaced bankers as the villains of the piece this year given that actual increase of gas and oil on the open market was about four percent while the companies increased their prices by 10 percent) .. a strong subtle message from Mr Osborne to Energy companies of helping people in need with winter energy bills, or else a windfall lefy, would go a long way with the voters proving a  conservative policy with compassion and understanding proves to be a more practical help than Mr Miliband’s populist slogans.