Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Hit by an ill-timed gas explosion

For the shadow Energy Secretary, the British Gas announcement was a gift-wrapped present

Poor Ed Davey. There are probably more congenial times to learn that a gigantic utility opposed to Ed Miliband’s plan to freeze gas and electricity bills has announced a 9.2 per cent price rise than slap bang in the middle of energy questions at the House of Commons.

For Caroline Flint, the shadow Energy Secretary, the British Gas announcement was the parliamentary equivalent of a Christmas present, gift wrapped in silver foil, tied with a pink bow and a cheery card saying “I think you’ll have some fun with this”. So for once there was real live drama! Having condemned the price freeze as a “con”, Mr Davey was obliged to listen to Ms Flint reporting that “during these questions” British Gas had made its unwelcome announcement. “Why will not the Secretary of State stand up for consumers, support Labour’s price freeze and make the energy companies tell us exactly how much money they are earning?”

To be fair, Mr Davey joined Ms Flint in criticising the “extremely disappointing” rise, pointing out that British Gas was the only company in the sector to miss energy efficiency targets, leaving “more homes cold and its customers paying over the odds”. The problem with this approach, however, was that compared with Labour’s planned freeze, flawed or not, his own solution sounded a bit lame. “I urge British Gas customers who are unhappy to change their supplier,” he offered.

This formulation comfortingly suggested that not all customers would be unhappy, and that some would rip open their latest bills and announce to their loved ones: “Oh, goody, a nice meaty price rise, which is handy for the shareholders, ensuring investment for future generations, and which the company has already explained is caused by factors that are ‘not all directly under [its] control’.”

But Mr Davey is also hampered in his dealings with Ms Flint by sartorial disadvantage. The Shadow Secretary is always so well turned out – today it was heels, black dress, and mauve colour co-ordinated cardigan and chunky necklace – that she once appeared in a glamorous magazine photoshoot, to the annoyance of Gordon Brown’s team at No 10. By contrast, Mr Davey’s collar issues, which had started to emerge at the Liberal Democrat conference, are now close to a full-blown crisis. His necktie makes an all-too-visible crease, with the collar’s floppy wings bending anarchically upwards like those of a schoolboy dragged through a hedge backwards.

Stiffen that collar, Secretary of State – and maybe energy prices will even stop going up.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border