British Gas price hike makes Ed Miliband look the smart one
Cost-of-living issue back centre stage - and Cameron has no answer to Miliband's popular price freeze
EYE-WATERING price rises of 10.4 per cent on electricity and 8.4 per cent on gas announced this morning have left David Cameron and George Osborne floundering, while 'Red Ed' Miliband is riding high.
The price rises announced by British Gas, the privatised giant energy company once owned by the taxpayer, immediately caused a backlash for the energy fat cats - and for Cameron who has rejected the Labour leader's recent plan for an energy price freeze without offering an alternative.
Miliband taunted Cameron only yesterday about the lack of action by the government at Prime Minister's Questions over the eight per cent price increase already announced by SSE. Cameron lamely hit back accusing Miliband of a "price con" - but it's Cameron who looks in danger of being left out in the cold.
Miliband caught the public mood when he announced during his party conference last month his plan to freeze prices for 20 months after the next general election if Labour wins power. Cameron flapped, accusing Miliband of trying to turn the clock back to its socialist past in the 1970s when the state controlled prices. But he has failed to find a winning solution.
The size of the British Gas price hike also took industry watchers by surprise. Robert Peston, the BBC's economics editor, tweeted this morning: "Crikey, British Gas pushes up prices 9.2%, even more than SSE. This cost-of-heating, cost-of-living story is big."
British Gas says the rise will add £2 a week to dual fuel bills and that the increase was necessary in part because of the government's "social and environmental programmes".
In effect, British Gas is trying to blame the coalition and the past Labour government - including Miliband when he was Environment Secretary - for some of the extra burden on customers. But that won't cut much ice with the voters who, according to the opinion polls, massively support Miliband's price freeze.
Miliband hit on another eye-catching initiative this morning - a 'Wonga Tax' on the payday loan companies to provide more cash for credit unions, who offer loans at high interest rates to the poor.
Yet again, Miliband is running rings round Cameron and Osborne, and they have little effective response. As The Week has reported recently, crucial polls point to a Labour victory at the 2015 general election. On this showing, Miliband isn't doing anything to spoil that scenario.