The hour was several decades back. The location was Aix-les-Bains. The occasion was some local festivity which involved a procession. The procession concluded with a troop of mounted gendarmes (or similar), predictably marking their progress along the thoroughfare.
Then, and only then, came the hero.
He was a municipal road-sweeper with his broom, shovel and cart. As he went about his task he received the most enthusiastic cheering and applause of the whole show.
Cameron at PMQs
Departmental ministers must feel empathy with the road-sweeper: David Cameron’s performances too frequently involve similar leavings and unwelcome clearings-up. Here is Isabel Hardman in The Spectator blogs:
Yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron surprised the whole chamber and the department concerned by announcing a brand new energy policy.
In response to a question from Labour’s Chris Williamson about what the government was doing to help people reduce their energy bills, Cameron said:
‘We have encouraged people to switch, which is one of the best ways to get energy bills down. I can announce, which I am sure the honourable gentleman will welcome, that we will be legislating so that energy companies have to give the lowest tariff to their customers – something that Labour did not do in 13 years, even though the Leader of the Labour party could have done it because he had the job.’
That this was one of Cameron’s policy-on-the-hoof moments was underlined by the fact that he was responding to a question from a Labour MP, not a planted one from a loyal Tory backbencher. Then his spokespeople struggled to brief journalists on any further details other than what the Prime Minister said, which was that apparently energy companies will ‘have to give the lowest tariff to their customers’. The Energy and Climate Change department appeared surprised by the policy. Energy companies were also rather astonished and said they were urgently seeking further details of this new policy and how it would affect their business. The implications for those companies’ business models did seem rather large. Today Caroline Flint told MPs at Energy questions that the Prime Minister of ‘making it up as he goes along’.
Eny fule kno the problems there. What Cameron seems to be saying is there would be only one tariff , and that available to all. At the moment there is a prolixity of tariffs with each and every energy supplier: they depend on whether gas and electricity are bought from the same supplier, how billing and payment is made, how long the contract extends, whether the transactions involve on-line accounts, and so forth. The result has to be confused and confusing, but it does represent relative costs on the supplier. A single tariff would inevitably be more expensive, and involve much less control for the canny consumer, much less competition (or what goes for it in this pretence of an energy-market).
Might as well nationalise the whole nonsense
If Isabel Hardman was unconvinced (and she has other examples of Cameron’s cavalier regard for normal practice) then others, like Charles Maggs, are happy to use the s-word:
Shambles: Energy minister didn’t know about energy policy announcement
The government’s own energy minister seemed unsure of his department’s policy today, after he struggled to answer questions of a plan announced by David Cameron in the Commons.
John Hayes admitted he was not expecting the prime minster to announce the policy yesterday, in a performance which suggested Cameron overstepped the mark during this week’s PMQs.
“Does he consult me on every issue? The answer is no,” he told MPs after Labour won an urgent question on the policy.
“But had we been discussing this policy? The answer is yes.”
He added: “This is a policy intent.”
Humiliatingly, there were calls of ‘more’ from opposition benches as Hayes’ answers came to an end.
Give that man a shovel and broom.