The Rundown Podcast: Energy Crisis Reckoning Awaits New Prime Minister
As the race to replace Boris Johnson risks being overshadowed by the looming cost of living crisis, Tory MPs Richard Holden and Alec Shelbrooke, supporters of the two party leadership contenders, join PoliticsHome's Alain Tolhurst and Caitlin Doherty to talk about radical energy plans, blue-on-blue attacks and the hustings between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.
Holden, the MP for North West Durham, is backing Sunak in the contest, and said the former Chancellor had a track record of policies helping people through the pandemic and beyond.
“But you're absolutely right that now it looks like that's becoming baked into the system, and bills could even go higher, which is the real concern for people,” he said.
“So that's why Rishi’s already said that as soon as bills now hit £3,000 we'll cut the VAT on them.”
There has been criticism from some Conservatives that Sunak has not pledged other immediate tax cuts, but Holden said he didn’t want to risk spiralling interest rates, which will be “the real killer for families”.
“The average person in my constituency with a £125,000 mortgage, they would have to pay another £500 pounds a month on their mortgage if interest rates went up to say 6 or 7 per cent," he said.
“That would absolutely take them over the edge.”
Shelbrooke is supporting Truss, the Foreign Secretary, and the MP for Elmet and Rothwell talked up her plans to remove temporarily the green tariffs on energy bills, as well as reducing National Insurance and VAT.
But he said with predictions the energy rice cap will hit £3,850 in January, with bills for that month alone hitting £500, we are “in a situation now all of that is almost just tinkering at the edges”.
Shelbrooke added: “It may be that we have to suddenly get really radical. Now, I wouldn't want to suggest that this is a policy of Liz Truss, or of Rishi Sunak, but there are countries in Europe – Lithuania as an example – who buy in their gas wholesale by the government, and then the companies sell it out.
“So it's a similar model to what we're doing with the railways, and it may just be that we get to the point where the government has to say, we will buy the gas wholesale, the companies will sell it out, but it's not going above the price cap that currently exists, and the government would have to subsidise that cost.”
“Alec and I in the same ballpark on some of this stuff,” Holden said in response.
“We are going to have to have radical thinking, I think you saw that actually in the TV debate before it was cut short the other day, both candidates said we're going to have to look at fracking,” he added.
To get through this winter we're “going to have to look in a very radical way at energy supply”, Holden said.
Shelbrooke said he himself is “not sure” how his family will be able to pay if bills energy costs continue to skyrocket.
“I've been on the doorstep for decades, and you always get people moaning at you on the doorstep [...] that's politics," the MP explained.
“What I've been seeing on the doorstep for the last six months is fear, absolute fear in people's eyes.
“They are terrified as to what is coming down the line, they don't know how they're going to pay it.
“To be honest, I'm not sure how in my family we're going to pay if it carries on going up this road."
- For the full discussion listen to this week’s episode of The Rundown, out now
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