We’ve all seen the headlines this week about the energy price cap and it’s safe to say that things are not looking good. With the latest news that energy bills will go up even more than expected in October, it is understandable that many are nervous and looking for leadership.
But in this time of crisis, there is a gaping vacuum of power. Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that any measures need to be enacted by the next Prime Minister. And to be fair to him, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and he’s already handed in his notice. If he announces anything, he’ll be criticised for overstepping but if he stays silent, he’ll be criticised for that too. The two ministers closest to the issue, Kwasi Kwarteng and Nadhim Zahawi, are keeping their cards close to their chest as well, presumably to not conflict with anything Truss may announce once she’s got the top job (or Rishi, of course…).
The two leadership candidates have spent the week telling us all that they’ve got a plan without going into many specifics on what those plans will be. Instead, they seem very focused on saying the other person’s plans won’t work, with supporters undertaking some fairly vicious briefings (such as Dominic Raab’s piece in The Times or Kwasi Kwarteng’s and Simon Clarke’s piece in The Telegraph). And there seems to be no chance of the current PM and the two candidates sitting down for a meeting, with Liz Truss quickly shooting down the idea, saying it would be a “kangaroo meeting.”
With the Conservative party currently locked in battle, this seems like a perfect opportunity for the opposition to step up…but they seem to be missing in action. Keir Starmer is currently on holiday while shadow ministers keep treading water when questioned about how they’ll help working families. So, while the Government is facing mounting criticism for not doing enough, it’s not coming from the leader of the opposition. Instead, it seems to be coming from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey, and money-saving expert Martin Lewis, all of whom have been front and centre in recent days. Labour have promised that plans are coming before the final announcement of the price cap on 26 August, but it may be tough for them to come out on top following other proposals.
Considering all of this, the leadership contest is starting to feel like it’s going on too long. Even after a difficult media week, Liz Truss is still miles ahead of Rishi Sunak in terms of member support and it’s difficult to imagine any other conclusion than the one that’s expected. At a time where leadership is clearly needed, waiting another three weeks to announce a (seemingly) inevitable winner feels less than ideal.