Your independent energy adviser
0800 051 5770

The 2015 General Election: Energy & Business Part I

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this series are entirely those of your correspondent.

Your correspondent believes that the two party system adopted in the UK needs and deserves two strong parties with polarised views on key issues so as to create a working, and healthy political dynamic.

We may not be back in the days of Foot vs. Thatcher but Ed Miliband is doing more than any of his recent predecessors to shift Labour’s political alignment from the centre back to the left. In contrast Cameron’s moves rightwards have been far less noticeable and amplified solely by Miliband’s swerve.

That’s the good news.

The problem is, regardless of political hue, any objective view of Miliband’s policies are of a badly thought through jumble of mixed up messages and futile and meaningless gestures. Far from being a coherent socialist doctrine we have been treated to the most populist of populist sound bites with no basis in reality or realism.

Miliband’s two biggest areas of weakness and the scene of his largest policy catastrophes just happen to be energy and business.

As business energy experts then we look on with dismay at the state of Her Majesty’s Opposition when it comes to two of the biggest domestic issues:

  • How to deliver security of energy supply cost effectively and via a palatable and affordable fuel mix balance, and:
  • How to enable businesses to thrive and drive the economy, and therefore the public’s health and wealth, collectively upwards.

That said, the emergence of two parties equally estranged to business and energy policy coherency, UKIP and the Green Party, mean that with the growing culture of protest votes, Miliband could have the opportunity, within a coalition, to change the face of energy and business in the UK for ever. And not in a good way.

For disclosure, your correspondent has no axe to grind with socially progressive politics and economic management, indeed that is what Labour should be emphasising. That the Tories appear more adept and willing to do so is a damning indictment of Miliband’s front bench team.

We are not alone in that view.

Cheap votes

Lord Jones of Birmingham, who served as Trade Minister under Gordon Brown’s administration, said that he had not yet heard Ed Miliband say “one word about why it’s good to make profit in Britain”.

Lord Jones also called on Miliband to:

“In the 90 days before the general election, it would be fabulous if [you] made a speech and said, ‘I am in favour of businesses making money and creating wealth’.”

Brent Hoberman, the founder of, accused Labour of trying to “intimidate people into not voicing their opinion”:

“What we’ve seen in France is that anti-business rhetoric is more damaging than the policies — that entrepreneurial success was somehow not a worthy aspiration.

“I think there are elements of the Labour party that should think more about the impact of their rhetoric on the business world, and the impact on the international view of investing in the UK . . . There’s a resentment towards people who work hard to create wealth for those around them.”

Simon Woodroffe, the Yo Sushi founder said:

“I was a Labour Party supporter during the Blair-Brown thing and I was a supporter because I am a believer that politics need to make money, that UK PLC needs to be a profitable business, and I thought they were a good management team.

“So, that’s what I’m looking for. Now, I’m not from the homelands of Labour, I’m not even from the homelands of the Conservatives. But I want somebody who really appreciates that business has got to succeed first before we can share out the money.

“[Labour’s current approach?] You know, it scares me”

Richard Caring, echoed these views saying:

“When you look back at Blair when I was a Labour supporter, he was very clear on being supportive of business and creating business. It wasn’t so much about trying to gain a cheap vote by trying to hit people that appear to be successful,”

And that latter element is key:

Cheap votes; hitting people who appear to be successful.

Half baked

That cannot be any clearer a policy when one considers Miliband’s latest anti success formula.

Miliband, fresh from promising an energy price freeze he cannot deliver, and in doing so presiding over massive market distortion has now proposed a “statutory right” for employees to be given first option to buy a business that is about to be sold, dissolved or floated on the stock exchange.

Miliband believes this “culture of co-operative entrepreneurship will help to stem growing inequality and ensure that more working people are able to reap the rewards of economic success”.

In effect the plans centre on Labour’s state-owned investment bank that would channel their lending to employee run buyouts.

One wonders at what point the employee becomes the fat cat oligarch or in Labour parlance when a ‘good’ business turns ‘bad’.

Indeed Miliband’s apparent belief in the simplicity of the proposal is as alarming as anything he has thus far uttered:

“Employees could be notified in advance of a business takeover or disposal and be given opportunity to prepare an employees’ buyout”

Unsurprisingly business leaders raised their hands in despair at this latest idea:


“another example that [Labour] don’t understand business.”

“barking mad”

“not thought through”

“give[s] entrepreneurs a serious reason not to invest.”

But Miliband remains defiant:

“I am not going to back down. The time has finally come to put an end to a society in which once group of people can play by different rules to the rest.”

SMEs in the firing line

Quite who was meant by this was fully revealed when the Labour party officially clarified that Miliband’s workers’ paradise policy was focused fully on:

“Smaller and growing firms at the point an owner wants to move on”.

Wow. So now the humble SME is directly in the line of fire of Labour, fresh from their taking their fight to big business and being roundly defeated.

That their new focus is frightening is an understatement. That business, of all shapes and sizes, is seen as a problem is clear. That there is no apparent objectivity in any of these policy statements is par for the Miliband course.

Yet you wouldn’t think so if you listen to his chief lieutenants:

Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary, someone who can usually be relied upon for a modicum of common sense, and this correspondent’s tip (and hope) for a future Labour leader, claimed, contrary to every bit of rhetoric and policy evidence of recent weeks that:

“We’re not spoiling for a fight with business at all — we’re very, very keen to work with business. Businesses overwhelmingly are part of the solution, not the problem.”

Or how about Ed Balls, in his typical fashion of showing incredulous nerve in the face of all evidence to the contrary insisting that Labour was “the centre ground, pro-business party today”.

And even Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary, wheeled out to defend Miliband’s latest madness claimed:

“I’m enormously enthusiastic about businessmen and women making money, about delivering shareholder return, about making a profit….. We have got 5m great businesses working really hard across Great Britain, making money. We are a furiously, passionately, aggressively pro-business party.”

Pro business?

But the truth is Labour categorically is not pro business, it isn’t even coherently anti business, it is simply as confused on how to handle the private sector, big business, SMEs, corner shops and industrial behemoths as it is about the simple, irreducible facts about UK energy policy.

Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors, put it best:

“The politicians have leapt on the opportunity to bash one [business] sector after another, proposing eye-catching but economically damaging policies.”

Come on Ed, the electorate, business and the future UK economy deserve better than this. Give us a real opposition that can drive and reward socially responsible business regardless of how much money they make.


MP 10/2/15