Government blamed for panic at the petrol pumps
Conflicting advice said to be responsible for forecourt chaos after fuel strike threat
AFTER another day of panic-buying at the petrol pumps over fears of a tanker drivers' strike, and conflicting advice from government ministers, the finger of blame is being pointed at the Prime Minister for allowing the chaos that has led to the closure of several service stations, and an 81 per cent jump in fuel sales.
"David Cameron has been accused of presiding over a 'shambles' as petrol stations throughout the country ran out of fuel after government attempts to allay panic buying backfired," reports The Daily Telegraph, while The Times explains that the PM is "facing growing repercussions over the 'self-inflicted' petrol shortages that led yesterday to pumps running dry, angry confrontations on forecourts and a big increase in the sale of jerry cans".
The crisis began earlier this week when fuel tank drivers voted for strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions. Although their walkout cannot happen before Easter some people began stockpiling fuel as a precaution after the government suggested people make "contingency plans".
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude then recommended that motorists fill jerry cans with petrol and store them in the garage.
That advice, condemned by the fire brigade, was withdrawn but transport minister Mike Penning then said people should make sure their tanks were "topped up".
Next, Energy Secretary Ed Davey noted that the average fuel tank was only a third full and recommended that people got a "full tank" when they went to the pumps.
Motoring organisations including the AA and the Petrol Retailers Association attacked the government for causing the confusion and the Daily Mail sniffed that drivers were being "prompted by ministers to fill their tanks to beat a strike that has not even been called".
The Guardian reported that even the Conservatives coalition partners, the Lib Dems, "blamed Maude for creating the panic buying".
With the latest crisis coming hot on the heels of the fallout from the Budget, the Times reports that senior Tories are increasingly "worried by the performance of Craig Oliver", the Prime Minister's director of communication and replacement for Andy Coulson.