Utility Week

Utility Week 12 12 2014

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Page 14 of 33

UtILItY WeeK | 12th - 18th December 2014 | 13 Policy & Regulation Analysis A er a stellar ending to 2013 for Labour, 2014 has proven to be a difficult sequel. At this stage last year, Ed Mili- band was still basking in the price freeze glow and soaring in the polls. He could do little wrong. He was the man with a plan. Fast forward 12 months, and things are very different. Miliband's personal approval ratings are low (below even that bench- mark of unpopularity that is Nick Clegg); rumours of discontent within his party are rife; and there looks to be a real fight on to avoid the embarrassment of having to enter into coalition – most likely with the Liberal Democrats. The situation is equally humbling for the Conservatives. While they have regained some composure on the energy front, aer being caught out by Miliband in Brighton in 2013, they are still far from having a firm footing. They are in the background – and seem content to keep things that way. By staying away from the debate, they can't offend too many people and rub them up the wrong way, nor alienate potential vot- ers. But that plan has been torpedoed by the Liberal Democrats, who have finally realised they have a fight on their hands to prevent a Westminster wipeout in May. Ed Davey seems to be leading the charge, becoming increasingly vocal and critical of both the opposition and the Conservatives. He has slammed their approach to renewa- bles and is appealing to the core Lid Dem voters at the same time. However, the key event of the year came 400 miles away from the squabbling in the House of Commons, north of the border. In fact, the threat of the union breaking up and Scotland going its own way brought the three main parties together – albeit briefly. The promise of more devolved powers for the Scottish government was just enough to persuade 55 per cent of Scots that keeping the UK together was the best thing to do. Among those powers set to migrate north- wards are a greater say on energy efficiency and fuel poverty policy, and a greater influ- ence in forming renewables policies. The main outcome of the referendum – other than the verdict itself – was the debate it triggered about English votes for English laws, or EVEL. This will rumble on well into the next year, and the next parliament. As for where policy on energy and water now stands: it is pretty much where it was at the start of the year. The energy compa- nies are still the whipping boys – although it is expected the Competition and Markets Authority inquiry will draw the sting, at least until aer the election. And despite Labour's protestations and potshots at the water industry – calling for a stronger regulator and for the companies to put customers on to cheaper tariffs – the Water Act is still the key piece of legislation, although key details are still to be filled in. So, during the past year Labour has lurched from substantial political advantage to credibility crisis surrounding Ed Miliband. The Tories, meanwhile, have gone from being caught out by Labour's price freeze to being caught out by the rapid rise in support for UKIP. The Lib Dems started the year look- ing battered and that's how they look still, although now at least they are shouting their corner. As for UKIP, it is smirking all the way to the pub as its influence and reign of fear over the major parties grows and the Greens are quietly collecting supporters. And all of this in what remains a United – although at times disharmonious – King- dom; 2015 will undoubtedly bring great cause for fraction. A year's a long time in politics Labour is suffering a crisis of confidence while the Tories suffer at the hands of Ukip and the Lib Dems just suffer. How different it looked at the beginning of 2014, says Mathew Beech. End of yEar rEport Labour Ed Miliband: D- Needs to brush up on his American history, in particular Bill Clinton's maxim: "It's the economy, stupid." Caroline Flint: B+ A solid year; we can expect more from her as we move towards the spring. Maria Eagle: C Steady and unspectacular; needs to stop copying Flint's homework. Conservatives David Cameron: C- Confidence is not an issue, but he needs to improve across the board to match his decent economic work. Matthew Hancock: C A new starter this year. Thriving in business studies; concerns he has too much going on and his other work may suffer. Liz Truss: D Another new starter; seems more at home with agricultural studies rather than water. Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg: C A slow start to the year, but has improved. Ed Davey: A A strong year; some good results; is more vocal and confident – seems destined for bigger things. Dan Rogerson: B- A solid, if unspectacular year. Has his hands full finishing off his homework (the Water Act). source: UKpollingreport.co.uk 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% 02-01-14 Con Lab LD Ukip 02-02-14 02-03-14 02-04-14 02-05-14 02-06-14 02-07-14 02-08-14 02-09-14 02-20-14 02-11-14 Polling results for 2014

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