Power crisis

I’ve been trying to think of a metaphor for the current state of the nation that doesn’t involve some mode of transportation heading for disaster, but it’s tough. A ship, the captain drunk and the junior officers fighting amongst themselves, steaming straight on to the rocks, a train speeding towards the buffers, the driver asleep at the switch, or an autonomous vehicle careering along a cliff edge, the AI heedless of the danger. In each scenario the passengers can do little but look on, aghast, bracing themselves for the inevitable collision.

If we go with the nautical analogy, then I guess the announcement last week that domestic energy prices will be more or less doubling in October would be an iceberg floating into the doomed vessel’s path, a development for which the authorities seem completely unprepared, despite the fact that it was sighted months ago.

The interminable process by which the 0.3% of the UK electorate who are members of the Conservative Party choose our next Prime Minister is thankfully almost at an end, but I am not at all sure that the installation of a new regime in Number 10 will result in much more in the way of decisive leadership. There is a general assumption, in the liberal press at least, that Liz Truss will win, and that, once in power, she will shed the performative Thatcherism that she had to adopt to get elected, but which nobody, not even her Tory audience, and least of all herself, actually believes is a coherent response to the current crisis. Even if she is morally unmoved by the prospect of a sizeable section of the population slipping into destitution, the economic and political calculations all point towards the necessity of state action to offer at least some relief to the voting public.

And yet… If the last decade of UK politics has taught us anything, it’s that no policy is too bone-headed or self-defeating that the government won’t at least consider enacting it. Respond to the most significant cost of living crisis in half a century by cutting Corporation Tax and trusting in the magic of trickle-down economics? Why not?

I’m fortunate that I’m in a position to be fairly passive about this; I can absorb the extra costs, so I feel no pressing need to do anything more active than posting some mildly acerbic pieces on my little-read blog. Others are obliged to be more militant; the current wave of strikes seems certain to spread, as workers are forced to defend their already precarious standard of living, and talk of civil unrest, and even riots, is uncomfortably plausible.

So, despite the evidence to the contrary, I remain hopeful that our ruling class retains enough common sense to realise that inaction is not an option, and that they will do just enough to get us through the winter without mass starvation. Some kind of deficit fund to subsidise a power bill freeze looks likely, especially if it can be structured in a way that funnels big fees into the pockets of Tory cronies.

Of course that will be just a temporary patch, and will do nothing to fix the structural problems that leave the country vulnerable to the vagaries of the international energy markets, so the reckoning is only being postponed for a few months. It’s time that will make the difference between life and death for many of our citizens though, and it will give us a chance to get a bit more organised, and push for a proper solution, so I guess we have to take any breaks we can get.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: