Sometimes it’s hard to believe our supreme leaders manage to trot out the most innuendo-laden lines without even a HINT of a snigger.
Take yesterday for example. With the sheer earnestness which comes from years of polishing sound-bites (and probably practising a straight face in the mirror), Energy Secretary Ed Davey declared to MPs on the energy select committee that the Energy Bill “is an extremely attractive package.”
Come ON. Has he never watched Blackadder? Or The Thick of It? Or so much as looked at the cover of Private Eye? The grandees of Westminster do this all the time. I can’t be the only one holding back a schoolgirl urge to giggle when these sort of phrases get tossed around… ahem.
So what was he talking about again? The Energy Bill. See how easy it is to get distracted from the task at hand? Maybe the politicos do it on purpose to stop us from concentrating on what they’re really saying.
It wouldn’t be surprising given the intense scrutiny currently on the energy sector right now – and not just in the UK.
The week brought research that European governments view energy suppliers as cash cows. To which the obvious response is? No kidding. Why wouldn’t politicians see them that way, when all the media (point taken) is constantly stuffed with news of their ‘fat cat’ profits?
For policy setters, it’s actually far more complicated than that – as Ed Davey went on to reveal during his select committee appearance – after the “attractive package” bit was dealt with.
Suggesting the questions will “get a little meatier” (YIKES!), Labour MP John Robertson asked whether Davey thought there was a chance energy firms will be less inclined to spend billions on energy infrastructure if the Government presses them to cut bills.
It’s a pressing point to make with the Energy Bill just days away. Davey’s response? After pursing his lips during the question, he took a deep breath and sidestepped this potential minefield.
He said rather simply, almost humbly: “Well I hope the Big Six, as you call them, will invest in energy infrastructure and I hope many other smaller companies and investors will be wanting to invest. I think [for all] the criticisms people make of the Big Six profits, they have to make them, they have to explain why they’re making them.”
So we see the dilemma laid out, both for government and the industries they work with, the seesaw, balancing act to be fair to everyone. It was neatly, satirically summed up by the energy committee’s guest last week.
Peter Atherton, the investment bank Citigroup’s energy expert told MPs: “Every CEO in the sector has the same anecdote. They arrive in London, they spend the morning being told by one set of Government ministries that they are a predator, they are horrible – and then go for lunch with another set of Government ministries and are begged to triple and quadruple their investment.”
There you have it. We just have to hope that Ed Davey’s own tightrope act really does create an “attractive package” for all parties – and this time, no pun is intended.