Skip to main content

Energy revolt


By Charlie Rattigan

The British public will be holding its breath for regulator Ofgem’s (The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) upcoming energy price cap announcement on Friday.

The forecasts look cloudy with energy consultancy Cornwall Insight predicting that bills are expected to reach £3,500 annually in October and top £5,300 in April 2023.

Auxilione paint an even darker picture, forecasting bills to reach £6,000 a year for the average household by next April.

With the cost of living crisis deepening, pressure is certainly growing on the government and Ofgem from opposition parties to protect UK households and ensure that any rises are kept to a bare minimum.

Labour has announced a £29bn plan to combat the hike through extra taxation of energy companies.

The Liberal Democrats labelled the expected bill increase as an “emergency” and have drafted legislation to cancel the price cap rise entirely, adding further pressure on the government.

Cracks are also forming internally at Ofgem, with director Christine Farnish resigning last week, accusing the regulator of “favouring businesses over consumers”.

Whilst criticism from opposition benches is nothing new, a wave of “cost-of-living” activist groups are mobilising rapidly and in large numbers. These may be of greater concern to the government.

Emerging seamlessly out of nowhere and funded by trade unions and community organisations, Enough is Enough is an advocacy group “determined to push back against the misery forced on millions by rising bills, low wages, food poverty, shoddy housing – and a society run only for a wealthy elite.” On their website, they set out five key demands:

  • Pathway to increase national minimum wage to £15 an hour
  • Slash energy bills (cancel October price hike)
  • End food poverty
  • Decent homes for all
  • Tax the rich

Backed by RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch and Labour MPs Ian Byrne and Zarah Sultana, the support for the campaign has grown exponentially in the last month, with their website crashing after more than 100,000 people joined the campaign in the first 24 hours. Crucially, the group’s support is not solely focused online. There were large queues and a packed crowd at their launch rally at Clapham Grand last week. This is made even more remarkable by the fact that just a few weeks ago Mick Lynch was speaking in tiny rooms to RMT members and was now centre stage at a large concert hall. 

Some may argue this is just another “Momentum” style campaign group which will burn out. But in an increasingly populist world, a pressure group which can mobilise in such a short timeframe will certainly worry those in charge in Westminster – who know a thing or two about populist campaigns. Furthermore, unlike previous traditional advocacy groups which tend to campaign on specified issues or particular legislation, groups like Enough is Enough are campaigning collectively on some of the most prominent issues facing the UK – wages, housing, food poverty, energy costs. Their support will only grow as the cost-of-living crisis worsens and no answer from those in power seems forthcoming.

In the wake of the bleak announcement on Friday, it is unlikely that the government or the regulator will fold under the political and public pressure. However, the rise of groups like Enough is Enough is an indicator of the current public feeling in the UK and the incoming Prime Minister will have to be ready to feel the heat. With two current Labour MPs involved, it may also open the floodgates for further political mobilisation within advocacy groups.