For a bill that’s been delayed “longer than it takes an elephant to gestate”, as MP and chair of the energy select committee Tim Yeo so succinctly put it at the EIC event I was at last week, yesterday’s energy legislation has certainly caused enough grief on the way out.
While we’ve been waiting for it, most coverage of the battle about where to spend money has focused on the Treasury and DECC clash – aka Tories versus Lib Dems.
We had fuel to the flame of speculation with Tory Energy Minister’s John Hayes’ “enough is enough” onshore wind comments, firmly crushed by Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey.
To their credit, Davey and Hayes have so far put on a spectacular show of putting their differences to one side. But interestingly, that’s not necessarily where we should be looking for cracks.
At the briefing yesterday where reporters were given the chance to ask for a bit more detail on the Energy Bill with all three of DECC’s top dogs, there was initially a near jubilant glow to start with from the trio. At last, something to crow about after much criticism for the delay.
Davey – sat with Barker and Hayes to his left – was brimming with satisfaction at getting the Bill out in November, as he had promised at the beginning of the month.
Take a look at the two chaps next to him though: as the briefing went on, relations became ever so slightly frostier.
When John Hayes remarked how “keen” Ed is to give him the credit for the energy efficiency parts of the bill, Barker clearly turned his shoulder away from fellow Tory and said under his breath, “Charles Hendry”. Could it be his replacement rankles with renewables fan and green keeno Greg?
There was another instance later, as we were loitering outside DECC’s Whitehall office to get a chance for a quick one on one with the ministers who were dashing off to vote in the House (and as you’ll see from today’s TV piece, we were lucky enough to speak with two). Asked by Davey whether they should wait for Greg Barker to get the same car over, Hayes clearly rejected the option. Five minutes later, Barker ran out the building to clamber into another vehicle.
Reading between the lines, keeping the two separate may well have been a good move. Could it be a case of fine champagne and pale ale – the two just don’t mix? And if you did mix the two you know you’ll need a bucket afterwards, headache tablet Ed?