Breaking: Martin Lewis challenges new prime minister to hour-long interview on cost of living

The new prime minister will be announced on September 5 and they will immediately inherit a crisis over the cost of living, with energy bills set to skyrocket.

Jen Mills metro.co.uk 

Many are awaiting a response from the government, but have been told to wait until either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss is named as the winner of the Tory leadership race.

Now, Martin Lewis is seeking to move the process along of finding out how they intend to help households weather the storm of a huge increase in their electricity and gas bills.

He has challenged whoever wins the contest to an hour-long interview on ITV about the cost of living.

The journalist, who became famous through his Money Saving Expert website offering explanations and tips on finance, has become one of the loudest voices on the crisis.

He has warned that ‘people will die’ this winter if help is not provided, from struggling to heat their homes in the cold and having to cut their income so much many will have to decided whether to heat or eat.

He wrote on Twitter this morning: ‘Dear @trussliz / @RishiSunak, The cost of living crisis has left millions worried how they’ll make ends meet.

‘I’d like to formally invite you, as the new PM, to join me asap once you take office for a special hour’s @itvMLshow discussion/Q&A to answer/ease people’s concerns.

‘ITV is happy to support this, so together will also extend the invite through official channels to both of you now for speed.

‘The preference is live in the evening, but we understand the time pressures and are happy to work on scheduling with you to make this work.’

He urged people to share the tweet inviting the winning politician to appear on the Martin Lewis Money Show Live, to get traction for the challenge.

When someone responded to say that he would only get ‘waffle, piffle and half promises’, he said: ‘I politely disagree. If this happens I will get straight answers.

‘There’s no point agreeing to do it unless you’ve something to say for an hour. And they know I’m focused on just cost of living so it’s details needed :)’

He also stressed that this would not be a ‘debate’ on the cost of living, as he is a consumer finance journalist and not an opposition politician.

Instead, ‘this is about an interview and Q&A for them to explain and answer questions on their plans.’

‘I’d happily give broad subject area notice but not vetted questions,’ he added.

Mr Lewis has previously called for more clarity on what government action will be taken on the cost of living.

Ofgem’s price cap for average household fuel and electricity bills – currently set to the equivalent of £1,971 a year – is already set to jump by more than 80% to £3,549 in October.

But this figure is likely to double to £7,263 when the cap is reviewed again in April, according to consultants Auxilione.

Liz Truss has said she will announce an emergency budget if she becomes prime minister, thought to include tax cuts and a reversal of the planned 1.25% increase in National Insurance.

However, how much this would help the very poorest has been questioned, with the FT stating that it would ‘offer only £59 to someone on the national minimum wage.’

Rishi Sunak said he would be prepared to find £10bn to soften the impact of this October’s price rise, with support going to the most vulnerable.

Writing in The Times at the start of August, he said that this would be paid for by limiting or pausing some programmes within the government, with some temporary borrowing as a last resort.

Expecting the new PM to show up and defend their policies to Mr Lewis may be a long shot, however.

Liz Truss pulled out of a planned face-to-face interview with BBC journalist Nick Robinson two days ago, saying she could ‘no longer spare the time’.

 

‘Setting up warm spaces as PM suns himself…’

“So as is so often the case in the last 12 years, it is left to us, the people, to try and help ourselves. At East Devon District Council we are doing all we can to help the extraordinary volunteers who work to share food through food banks or other sharing means. A beneficial side effect is that this also helps stop good food going to waste.”

We are also trying to find more funds to help the Citizens Advice Bureau and – and I can’t believe I am writing this – our officers have been working all summer seeing how we can collaborate with other agencies to provide “Warm Spaces” for those who simply cannot afford to turn on the heating.

What is Simon Jupp doing? – Owl

Paul Arnott, Leader EDDC www.midweekherald.co.uk 

September remains my favourite month, full of promise and fresh starts. The summer breeze still blows, blackberries are ready, and the TV schedules pop with new programmes as the days grow shorter.

This September, however, many of us are fearful of what is to come, especially with soaring energy costs. In our home we usually make it to mid-October before I catch my wife trying to reset the heating control panel in the boiler cupboard to “ON”. Perhaps that may buy us all some time, but not much.

In this universally predicated situation, what is most needed is clarity, which is now about three months overdue. Instead we have a disgraced prime minister, who should have long ago left the role, and a Hobson’s Choice between a pair of nakedly ambitious competitors to succeed him.

Our next national leader – a role with inordinate power exerted through the little understood Cabinet Office – will be chosen by at most two hundred thousand members of the Conservative party. That is to say, about one three-hundredth of the country.

To bring the point home, in our lovely East Devon, where roughly 180,000 people live, only 600 of us would have a vote on that fraction. I got more votes than that in 2019 for Colyton Parish Council.

This shames our country, with the increasingly empty boasts from the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg that ours is the Mother of Parliaments. Any honourable new Prime Minister elected with this feeble mandate would immediately seek validation in a general election. For some reason, Liz Truss doesn’t seem to fancy her chances.

So as is so often the case in the last 12 years, it is left to us, the people, to try and help ourselves. At East Devon District Council we are doing all we can to help the extraordinary volunteers who work to share food through food banks or other sharing means. A beneficial side effect is that this also helps stop good food going to waste.

We are also trying to find more funds to help the Citizens Advice Bureau and – and I can’t believe I am writing this – our officers have been working all summer seeing how we can collaborate with other agencies to provide “Warm Spaces” for those who simply cannot afford to turn on the heating. In 2022! There is a whole generation now who do not remember the news stories about death by hyperthermia. That’s on its way back if we do not act.

This is why – and sorry if I sound unusually cross – the site of the pink and shirtless Boris Johnson holidaying around the Med, using his contact books to set up book deals and public speaking engagements likely to gross him at least £5 million in the next year is so sickening. Just look at him; he hasn’t a care in the world. I do hope the penny has dropped. That’s because he never has cared for anything but his own progress.

During Covid we are proud that as a district council we were a key agency. While making democratic choices we distributed everything from business rate relief to emergency business funding, energy rebate payments through our council tax system, to discretionary payments for those in extreme hardship.

All we have ever asked of Simon Jupp and Neil Parish (until he resigned) was to signal to government that we needed more than a week’s notice before putting these massive operations into action. We are a mere district council and only about 7% of your council tax bill comes to us. It’s tough.

But yet again it’s all going to be kick, b****ck and scramble. We’ll cope, at the price of stressed council employees switching roles and putting in extra hours. But for heaven’s sake – please – can we not inflict these slapdash Tories on us again? They are neither the natural party of government or of the economy.

 

Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 15 August

Lib Dems get ready for possible byelection if Michael Gove quits

The Liberal Democrats are rushing through plans to confirm a candidate for Michael Gove’s Surrey seat amid speculation that the former levelling up secretary is considering quitting parliament, which would spark a byelection.

Peter Walker www.theguardian.com 

The party’s application window for selection for the seat, held by Gove since 2005, closes on Wednesday evening and the selection process is expected to take two weeks. Lib Dem officials are planning for a possibly imminent campaign in which the party would fight on issues including the state of local hospitals and plans to drill for gas locally.

A Conservative source said, however, it was not true Gove planned to quit as an MP. Speculation that he might has intensified since Gove publicly backed Rishi Sunak to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, and said he did not expect to be in government again.

Before becoming an MP, Gove was a prominent journalist for the Times, and there have been reports he is considering a return to the profession.

Surrey Heath has been held by the Tories since the constituency was created in 1997, and Gove had a majority of more 18,000 at the 2019 general election, albeit reduced from almost 25,000 in 2017.

A Lib Dem source said the party had heard from several local sources that Gove could be about to depart, and that it would hope to emulate a trio of recent byelection successes over the Conservatives, in two of which it overturned bigger majorities.

“We are selecting a candidate and we are on high alert, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the byelection will happen.” the source said. “We are also preparing in other seats, for example in Mid Bedfordshire, if Nadine Dorries is given a peerage.”

The Conservative source said: “Sadly this is yet another example of Lib Dem dirty tricks. They are more interested in playing politics than delivering for voters. Michael remains absolutely committed to his Surrey Heath constituents and has no plans to stand down.”

Lib Dem hopes in the seat would be boosted by the party’s recent good performances in so-called blue wall commuter belt constituencies, notably the first of the recent byelection wins, in which the party overturned a Conservative majority of more than 16,000 to take Chesham and Amersham, just north-west of London, in June 2021.

Since then the party took two previously safe Tory seats: North Shropshire in December 2021, overturning a near-23,000 majority; and Tiverton and Honiton in Devon this June, where the Conservative margin had been more than 24,000.

The party can also point to good local election results in May in nearby Woking – there were no polls for councils inside the constituency – in which it took control from the Tories.

“We never take anything for granted,” a Lib Dem source said. “It would be a very hard fight and always we come in as the underdog. We don’t underestimate how hard we have to graft at every byelection”.

A Lib Dem campaign would focus in part on cost of living issues, but also local factors such as the local hospital, Frimley Park, one of 34 in England with a concrete roof at risk of collapse, and the government’s decision to allow drilling for gas in the Surrey Hills.

Gove has held a string of cabinet posts, including education, the environment, and communities and levelling up. Johnson sacked him from the last job in July after Gove told the prime minister he should leave No 10.

Earlier this month, Gove belatedly said he was supporting Sunak as the next Tory leader and PM, warning that the economic plans of Sunak’s rival, Liz Truss, amounted to a “holiday from reality”.

With Truss seen as almost certain to win, that makes Gove’s chances of returning to the frontbenches very slim. Announcing his decision to back Sunak, Gove wrote in the Times: “I do not expect to be in government again.”

Energy bills soaring because of government failure not Ukraine, says ex-Tory adviser

Both Ofgem and Ofwat, the watchdogs for energy and water respectively, should be axed and replaced with new stronger regulators for each entire system, according to Sir Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Oxford, Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford and former Government adviser.

The sectors are undermined by “revolving doors and pork-barrel politics, heavily influenced by vested interests, with an interest in complexity, which is a lobbyist’s dream”.

This had led to the “inevitable consequences of poor regulation and bad outcomes for customers”

So much for privatisation of monopoly services beloved by Tories – Owl

Rob Merrick www.independent.co.uk 

Government failure not the war in Ukraine is to blame for rocketing UK energy bills, a former Conservative adviser says.

Dieter Helm, who wrote a 2017 Cost of Energy review, questioned ministers trying to shift responsibility to Russia’s invasion as he attacked the “broken” privatisation model for energy and water.

On a visit to Kyiv last week, Boris Johnson claimed Britons are suffering soaring bills as a price the West must pay for standing up to Moscow’s aggression.

The departing prime minister said: “We know that if we’re paying in our energy bills for the evils of Vladimir Putin, the people of Ukraine are paying in their blood.”

But Sir Dieter pointed to a market system that is not “fit for purpose”, arguing it wrongly fixes prices to the cost of gas – also handing “supernormal profits” to renewable producers.

Average bills will soar to £3,549 in October – and are predicted to top £5,300 from January – despite the UK importing barely any gas directly from Russia.

“Customers faced with high bills are paying too much because the government failed to reform the market,” he told the Financial Times.

The former adviser, now an economics professor at Oxford University, argued both energy and water are “too essential to be treated like any other commodity”, as privatisation had allowed.

The sectors were undermined by “revolving doors and pork-barrel politics, heavily influenced by vested interests, with an interest in complexity, which is a lobbyist’s dream”.

This had led to the “inevitable consequences of poor regulation and bad outcomes for customers”, Sir Dieter added.

He called for both Ofgem and Ofwat, the watchdogs for energy and water respectively, to be axed and replaced with new stronger regulators for each entire system.

It follows anger over water companies pouring sewage into England’s rivers and seas and implementing hosepipe bans while failing to plug leaks that waste supplies – and paying their bosses eye-watering sums.

The Independent revealed how Liz Truss failed to hold any meetings with water bosses over the dumping of raw sewage in two years as environment secretary, despite the practice having been ruled illegal.

The likely next prime minister is in the firing line over the sewage scandal after records revealed her only talks were to discuss a bug linked to severe stomach upsets.

“It is not accidental that both the water and the energy privatisation models have run into serious trouble. After more than 30 years, neither is fit for purpose. Nor are their regulators,” Sir Dieter told the Financial Times.

On energy, he added: “Ofgem is not the right vehicle. Energy needs system regulation, not an institutional muddle with Ofgem in overall charge.”

But Ofgem said: “We are confident Ofgem regulation is robust, tackling any unfair practices by suppliers and putting consumer protection at the heart of what we do.” Ofwat declined to comment to the paper.

A decade of Tory energy failures will cost us well in excess of £18bn a year

Do Conservatives really get the big calls right?

A decade of under-investment and “light touch” regulation will cost us dear.

Salient points drawn from a recent Times article – Owl

As households and businesses face crippling energy bill increases and fears grow of potential blackouts this winter, recriminations are flying over how Britain got to this point. “Twelve years of failed Conservative energy policy has left bills too high and our energy security too weak,” Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, said. Andy Prendergast, of the GMB Union, said: “Successive governments have been asleep at the wheel for years over the UK’s energy strategy.” Emily Gosden www.thetimes.co.uk

CAMERON CUTS “THE GREEN CRAP”: 2013

Rob Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), said. “Better insulated houses would without doubt have eased some of the pain this winter.” Even if prices were just as high, better insulation could have helped households to use less, mitigating the increase in their overall bills.

“The No 1 thing that the government could have done differently would have been to have a serious energy efficiency policy over the last decade,” said Simon Evans, deputy editor of the specialist energy and climate website Carbon Brief. “There’s been just a succession of policy failures on energy efficiency.”

Insulation rates plummeted by about 90 per cent in 2013 as the coalition government changed to a new energy efficiency scheme that it then scaled back after David Cameron reportedly ordered officials to “cut the green crap”.

ZERO-CARBON ABANDONED: Cameron 2015- cost over coming year £2.1 bn

In 2015 the Cameron administration also abandoned the planned zero-carbon homes standard that would have ensured that new-builds were well insulated. “We’re still building houses that are not brilliant from an energy efficiency point of view and we should have stopped doing that years and years ago,” Keith Anderson, chief executive of Scottish Power, said.

Carbon Brief estimates that these two decisions alone will cost households an extra £2.1 billion over the coming year. Other failed energy-efficiency efforts include the Green Deal, a coalition era scheme to encourage households to take out loans to pay for home improvements, and the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme in 2020.

Analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit finds that homes with the worst energy efficiency ratings, rated “G”, will pay almost £2,000 more for their energy this winter than those rated “C”, the government’s target.

GAS RESILIENCE: Failing to develop gas storage [cost consumers last year £230 million]

Britain imports just over half of its needs. Despite this the government over the past decade rejected repeated calls to bolster Britain’s gas storage capacity, which was already one of the lowest in Europe.

In 2013 Michael Fallon, the energy minister, ruled out subsidising new storage sites, arguing that supplies were resilient and the market would deliver security of supply more cheaply. This led to Centrica scrapping two proposed projects.

In 2017 the situation worsened as Centrica announced that it was closing Rough, Britain’s biggest gas storage site, as it was not economical to repair without subsidy. The business and energy department, then led by Greg Clark, did not intervene and Richard Harrington, one of his ministers, said: “The closure of Rough will not cause a problem with security.”

The government still did not heed calls for a rethink the following year when the Beast from the East led to a rise in gas prices, even as analysts at Wood Mackenzie warned that Britain’s lack of storage left it “precarious” and could lead to blackouts in a winter supply crunch.

Less than a year ago Kwasi Kwarteng, the business and energy secretary, was still insisting that gas storage was “a red herring”, but he now appears to have had a change of heart and is in talks with Centrica over reopening Rough. Centrica claims that the site would have “saved consumers about £100 each last winter had it been operational”. [There are around 23 million domestic gas meter points in UK so £100X23,000,000 = £230 million

GAS IMPORTS: Failing to secure long-term supplies [cost unknown but significant]

“Because the UK took a view that state-backed long term contracts (for LNG in particular) weren’t necessary or desirable, we now have to pay high prices to ensure that gas is delivered here, rather than into Asia, where long-term contracts remain more common,” Gross, of the UKERC, said.

Kathryn Porter, of the Watt-Logic consultancy, agreed that gas policies had been complacent. “Successive governments essentially took a bet that the global market would remain well supplied and neglected to hedge against rising prices,” she said. “An appropriate hedge would have been to buy some of these volumes on firm, fixed price contracts.” One energy chief executive argued that households would be better off if the government had stepped in even a year ago to procure gas supplies for the nation.

GAS DEPENDENCE: Failing to develop more wind, solar and nuclear [Cost this year £10.5 bn]

The coalition government decided in 2014 to restrict subsidies that supported the deployment of solar farms, and in 2015 David Cameron’s Conservative government scrapped onshore wind subsidies and tightened planning rules.

Carbon Brief estimates that if solar deployment had continued at its previous pace then it could have reduced annual energy bills by almost £3 billion from October and continued onshore wind development could have saved £4.5 billion. 

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “For more than a decade, experts have been warning that a failure to replace our retiring nuclear fleet, which will be all but gone by 2028, would result in increased supply volatility and higher prices. Had decisions been made sooner on projects like Hinkley Point C, which would have saved consumers £3 billion had it been online this winter, the industry wouldn’t have to be playing catch up now.”

POWER IMPORTS: Failing to secure adequate back-up for wind power [unknown but significant]

High gas prices are not the only thing pushing up power prices: there have also been increasing periods when electricity supplies have simply been scarce, especially at times when wind speeds are low and wind farms are producing less than expected. 

“As Britain and other countries progressed their wind-led energy transitions, gradually intermittent renewables displaced ageing thermal and nuclear generation to the point where security of supply is at risk when wind output is low,” Kathryn Porter, consultant at Watt-Logic, said. “In the past there was a view that it would always be windy somewhere and so better interconnection would allow those surpluses to be carried to the markets that need them. Unfortunately we have discovered that this is not always true in practice.”

Tom Edwards, of Cornwall Insight, said that allowing interconnectors to take part in this scheme was a mistake as it “allowed replacement of UK generation capacity with cables”. Lisa Waters, of Waters-Wye Associates, added: “The market has long argued that interconnectors are not generators, just wires, so they are being paid for capacity that in reality they may not be able to deliver.”

ENERGY SUPPLIERS: Failing to ensure robust companies [cost £5.7 bn]

Since summer last year 29 energy suppliers have gone bust after being unable to withstand soaring energy prices. This has resulted in multibillion-pound costs to consumers that are now being recouped via energy bills. Of the failed suppliers, 28 have been dealt with through an Ofgem process that is estimated to have cost £2.7 billion, or £94 for every household; the costs of the 29th, Bulb, remain unclear but could be as high as £3 billion.

Ofgem, the energy regulator, has taken most of the blame for these failings, accused by MPs on the business select committee of being negligent and incompetent by failing to check if suppliers were set up and financed properly. The MPs found, however, that the situation also reflected a political drive to encourage competition and low prices as the top priority.

The Sturminster Marshall Horror Show

Boris Johnson refuses to rule out return during Dorset visit with Nadine Dorries

Boris Johnson has refused to rule out a political comeback during a farewell trip to Dorset. The outgoing Prime Minster declined to be drawn on what he will do when he is replaced as prime minister by either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak.

Mike Taylor www.dorset.live

Could this be one of Neil Parish’s Tractors? – Owl

The outgoing Prime Minister in Sturminster Marshall instead put his focus on the expansion of gigabit-speed broadband, as he sought to emphasise his Government’s achievements. He visited Henbury Farm with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries where Wessex Internet are laying fibre optics in the field.

Asked if he would rule out a comeback, Mr Johnson told reporters: “I think on the whole people in this country are more interested in their gigabit broadband than they are in the fate of this or that politician.”

Mr Johnson’s demise was ultimately triggered by the row after former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher was accused of inappropriate behaviour. Asked if he had regrets about the way allegations of misconduct had been dealt with, Mr Johnson said: “All those things have to be handled carefully and sensitively and we have processes for dealing with them, and people who have complaints should raise them in the normal way.”

Mr Johnson declined to give himself a rating out of 10 for his term in office. Asked about his plans after next Tuesday, when he is set to be replaced, Mr Johnson said: “I am concentrating on today.”

Rory Stewart, a former Conservative leadership rival of the Prime Minister, warned on Monday that Mr Johnson could try and make a comeback. “I fear we’re going to end up with a second Berlusconi or a second Trump trying to rock back in again,” the former Tory Cabinet minister said.

Mr Johnson highlighted the announcements already made which will see £1,200 going to the eight million most vulnerable households. But he added: “Whichever of the two candidates gets in next week, what the Government is also going to do is provide a further package of support for helping people with the cost of energy.

“What we’ve got to do is get through the tough months – and I’m not going to shrink from this, it is going to be tough in the months to come, it’s going to be tough through to next year.”

The price increase in gas is being driven by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, he said during a visit to Dorset. “We’re going to get through it,” Mr Johnson said. “We’re taking 26% more of our own gas from the North Sea than we did last year, we’re much less dependent on Putin’s supplies.”

He added “I just want to give people a sense of hope and perspective” because the UK was in a “strong economic position” which meant the Government had been able to provide support and it also had a “long-term British energy security strategy”.